Sleep Apnea Linked to Hearing Loss

Senior man sleeping on bed at bedroom

Sleep apnea may not only affect the quality of your sleep. New research suggests that sleep disorder may be linked to hearing loss as well.

The research, which was presented at the American Thoracic Society’s 2014 International Conference, found that of the 13,967 participants sampled, about 10 percent had at least moderate sleep apnea. These patients had a 31 percent increased risk of high-frequency hearing impairment, a 90 percent increased risk of low-frequency hearing impairment and a 38 percent increased risk in combined high and low-frequency hearing impairment after controlling for other causes of hearing loss and potentially confounding factors like age and sex.

“In our population-based study of 13,967 subjects, we found that sleep apnea was independently associated with hearing impairment at both high and low frequencies after adjustment for other possible causes of hearing loss,” said lead author Amit Chopra, MD, currently at the Albany Medical Center in New York.

“Sleep apnea is more of a systemic and chronic disease than just something that happens when you’re sleeping,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Neomi Shah, an associate director of the pulmonary sleep lab at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. Chopra also noted that “the mechanisms underlying this relationship merit further exploration. Potential pathways linking sleep apnea and hearing impairment may include adverse effects of sleep apnea on vascular supply to the cochlea [part of the inner ear] via inflammation and vascular remodeling or noise trauma from snoring.”

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