Stress, at certain levels, isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, response to stress is an important factor in the survival of any species. Stress can tell you when to fight or run away in a dangerous situation, and it give you a boost of adrenaline when you need it most. Unfortunately, many Americans experience chronic high levels of stress, which can have a negative effect on health, including your hearing.
How Does Stress Cause Hearing Loss?
The spike in adrenaline you experience when you’re stressed can have negative consequences, including increasing your breathing rate and diverting oxygen to muscles. When you experience chronic stress, your body does not have a chance to recover from these side-effects. The result can include heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, and any condition that restricts circulation is also going to have a negative impact on your hearing.
The inner ears contain tiny hair cells called stereocilia that move in response to soundwaves and send electrical signals to the auditory nerve that are sent to the brain to be interpreted as sound. Poor circulation can impact the ability of the stereocilia to do their job, and once they lose function, they do not regenerate.
Poor circulation can also cause pulsatile tinnitus, a condition marked by ringing in the ears that pulsates or beats in time to your heartbeat. Pulsatile tinnitus is typically caused by high blood pressure, which can be the result of chronic stress.
How Do I Cope with Stress?
Overcoming stress is more easily said than done. Many people experience stress in their lives that they cannot simply walk away from. Fortunately, there are helpful strategies for coping with stress and reducing its effects on the body.
Take a Break
While most people can’t remove themselves from their job, school, or children, it’s still important to find time for breaks. Try to be more intentional about taking scheduled lunch breaks, taking a step back from your homework or hiring an occasional babysitter.
Exercise is one of the best ways to preserve your physical and mental health. Just 20 minutes of exercise per day – even walking – can improve your cardiovascular health and reduce stress.
Having a friend, family member or therapist you can turn to talk about your stressors is important for your mental health. Try to find someone who will empathize with your situation or someone who can give impartial advice.