Hearing Blog

Snoring Contributes to Hearing Impairment

March 15, 2018

Snoring is one of the actions we often have no control over since it occurs while we sleep. However, those with sleep apnea may run a higher risk of suffering from hearing loss. Recent research explored 14,000 Latino participants during the Hispanic Community Health Study. The results concluded that those with sleep apnea had a 31% higher likelihood of suffering from hearing loss in the higher range of frequencies and a 90% chance of having hearing difficulties in the lower range of frequencies. Additionally, when considering both types of hearing loss explored in the study, those with sleep apnea were found to have a 38% higher likelihood of having some type of hearing loss.

It is important to note that the above study has limitations since it was a correlation study, and correlation does not equal causation. This limits the generalization of the study, but is significant in terms of acting as a gateway for more experimental research on the potential causes of hearing loss due to sleep apnea.

For those who are unaware of what sleep apnea is, it is a sleep disorder where regular respiration is constantly and abruptly disrupted for approximately 10 seconds each time, during the entire sleeping process. Obstructive sleep apnea refers to the inability of the muscles of the trachea to remain open to let air through, which causes the interruption in breathing while asleep. Central sleep apnea is a different kind of sleep disorder which involves the inability of the brain to effectively regulate the act of breathing when asleep. Sleep apnea can lead to a shortage in oxygen supply in the blood and cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems as well. The most frequently diagnosed form of sleep apnea is the obstructive kind.

The act of snoring as a result of sleep apnea can cause injury to the cochlea in the inner ear which can result in hearing loss. The general volume of a single snore in someone with sleep apnea can range up to about 100dB, which is extremely high. Technically defined, a snore is generally considered to be a sound caused in the nasal cavity during sleep and can range from 50dB upwards. Any sound that rises about 85dB is considered to be unsafe for hearing and can cause hearing loss, thus people with sleep apnea run the risk of suffering some form of hearing damage simply due to the act of snoring.

Sleep apnea is a difficult condition to live with since it causes more than simple disruptions in sleep. Since it can cause a myriad of other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and hearing loss, it is best to treat it appropriately to prevent any other serious health conditions in the future.