Many people in Scottsdale suffer from sleep disorders. One of the most common is sleep apnea, a condition that can lead to serious health complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Another lesser-known side effect of sleep apnea is hearing loss.
Causes and Consequences of Sleep Apnea
People with sleep apnea in Scottsdale experience repeated breathing interruptions during sleep. This is the result of throat muscles relaxing and blocking the airway. Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring and breathing cessations that can persist for ten seconds or longer, robbing the body of oxygen. The consequences of sleep apnea may be severe; because patients are unable to fall into a deep, restorative sleep, they experience extreme daytime fatigue that affects many aspects of their daily lives. Physical health isn’t the only thing impacted by sleep apnea; it affects job performance; causes stress, anxiety and depression; and increases the risk of being involved in an automobile accident.
Approximately 18 million Americans experience sleep apnea. Many of these individuals have no idea they suffer from a sleep disorder; it often takes a sleeping partner or other member of the household to make them aware. The signs of sleep apnea include:
- Chronic loud snoring
- Waking up gasping or choking for air
- Morning headaches and dry mouth
- Daytime fatigue
- Concentration difficulties
- Memory loss
Hearing loss is also associated with sleep apnea. A study of 14,000 patients with hearing loss found individuals with a high body mass index (BMI) and those who are chronic snorers were more likely to have severe sleep apnea. Another study examined patients with severe sleep apnea and concluded that people with the lowest oxygen levels were most likely to develop hearing loss. According to your Scottsdale audiologist, hearing loss is probably the result of a combination of factors including loud snoring and reduced blood flow to the inner ear.
The National Sleep Foundation lists the following risk factors for sleep apnea:
- Age (40+)
- Gender (male)
- Ethnicity (African-American, Hispanic, Pacific-Islander)
- Anatomy (small upper airway; large tongue, tonsils, uvula; large overbite; recessed chin; large neck)
- Alcohol use
- Genetics (sleep apnea appears to run in some families)
Treat Your Sleep Disorder to Protect Your Hearing
Sleep apnea is a dangerous and potentially lethal condition that requires medical intervention. Your Scottsdale audiologist recommends you complete a thorough medical evaluation and order a sleep study to confirm the diagnosis and measure the severity of your condition.
Treating sleep apnea usually involves continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a machine that delivers small bursts of air through a tube and into a mask that you wear over your mouth at night. In less severe cases, oral devices such as mouth guards or nasal breathing strips might help. If there is an anatomical issue causing symptoms, surgery may be an option. Lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol can help make a positive difference, as well.
If you suspect you are suffering from sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with a Scottsdale audiologist to get your hearing checked out too.