Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes the person to pause in breathing during sleep. The disorder has been known to cause health problems like heart disease and diabetes. According to a study from the United States, sleep apnea also affects the ability to hear.
The study found that people suffering from sleep apnea had a 31% increased risk of high frequency hearing loss, a 90% increased risk of low frequency hearing loss and a 38% increased risk of hearing loss in combined high-low frequency hearing loss. These results held true after the researchers adjusted the data for factors like age and sex.
Nearly 14,000 individuals participated in the study, and all of the subjects underwent in-home sleep apnea studies and on-site hearing tests. Among the participants, almost 10% had moderate sleep apnea, 19% had high frequency hearing loss, 1.5% had low frequency hearing loss, and 8.4% had both high and low frequency hearing loss.
According to the researchers, the study showed a clear link between sleep apnea and an increased risk of hearing loss, with around 30% of the patients having some sort of hearing impairment.
The reason for this link is, however, unknown. Sleep apnea has previously been associated with blood flow problems. According to the researchers, a potential explanation for the relationship between the sleeping disorder and hearing loss could be problems with blood flow to the cochlear in the inner ear.
More research is needed to investigate the mechanism underlying the relationship.
About the study
The study was conducted by Dr. Amit Chopra, M.D. and his research team from the Albany Medical Center in New York and was a part of the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos. The findings were presented at the American Thoracic Society’s 2014 International Conference.