Stress is linked to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, obesity and headaches. A lesser known symptom of stress is hearing loss.

What Is Stress?

Stress is your body’s response to environmental stressors. Known as the “fight or flight” response, stress tells you how to react in a dangerous situation. You will feel your pulse quicken, your breath increase and your muscles tense. Your brain will begin to use more oxygen to increase your activity. Stress can also be beneficial in situations that are not life-threatening, motivating you to make changes or push yourself past your comfort level.

While an evolutionary benefit designed to protect you, too much stress can be unhealthy. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that long-term stress is harmful to your health.

In stressful situations, your adrenaline increases so you can breathe quicker and diverts oxygen to your muscles so you can run faster. The increase of adrenaline can suppress your immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems in the long term.

How Stress Affects Your Hearing

While your body will return to normal after a single stressful experience, constant stress blocks your body’s signals. This can lead to serious health problems including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

When your body’s circulation is restricted, your hearing loss can be negatively impacted. The hair cells of your inner ear rely on good circulation to translate soundwaves into electrical impulses, which are then sent to the brain to be interpreted as sound. Without proper blood supply, the hair cells can die, leading to permanent sensorineural hearing loss.

In addition to hearing loss, poor circulation can cause pulsatile tinnitus. This type of tinnitus is described as hearing pulses in the ear in time with your heartbeat. Typically caused by high blood pressure, this form of tinnitus can be exacerbated by stress.

How to Manage Your Stress

In order to protect your ears, you should learn to manage your stress before you permanently damage your hearing. The American Psychological Associations put together a list of tips to reduce stress.

Eliminate the Stressors

While some situations are not under your control, dropping some responsibilities, relaxing your standards or seeking professional mental health can be a good place to start for eliminating stressors.

Start Exercising

A moderate amount of physical activity can help cancel out some of the negative effects of stress, including its impact on your immune system. The simple addition of a brisk 30-minute walk or following an online dance video in your living room can help.

Try Meditation

Mindful meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety. Start by setting aside just five minutes in a quiet place to sit and breathe. Focus on staying in the present, and if your thoughts start to stray, acknowledge them and then let them go.

Seek Out Social Support

Setting up a support system of friends and family can improve how you handle stress. You will likely find some are good listeners while others will offer practical advice. Offering support to others can increase positive emotions and decrease negative emotions. This also helps ensure you keep your relationships in balance.

Focus on Improving Your Sleep

Stress directly impacts your night’s sleep. Put together a consistent sleep routine with allotted time to wind down before turning off the lights. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the late afternoon and stop using electronics an hour before bed.

Seeking the help you need is key to managing your emotional and physical health. Contact the experts at Willamette Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery to learn how to protect your hearing today.

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