June 2019 Flagstaff Business News
Sleep apnea is a common disorder and, according to the National Sleep Foundation, it affects about 18 million Americans. Most of us think of sleep apnea as snoring with periodic gasping or “snorting” noises. This seemingly innocent annoyance interrupts sleep and can cause excessive daytime fatigue and other symptoms such as generalised inflammation, cardiovascular and endocrine problems. It can also affect the way a person thinks and even hears.
More than half of individuals with sleep apnea are overweight and most snore heavily. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to a variety of other health issues, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity. In addition to snoring and daytime sleepiness, symptoms of sleep apnea may include morning headaches, irritability, learning or memory problems, mood swings, dry throat upon waking in the morning and frequent urination at night.
Types of Apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway collapses or becomes obstructed. This is the most common type of apnea. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain doesn’t send the right signals to your breathing muscles. Central sleep apnea is more common in individuals with certain medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure and stroke or sleeping at high altitude.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect the Hearing Organ?
The organs in the inner ear are dependent on a healthy supply of blood flow. Good circulation nourishes delicate hair cells in the hearing organ or cochlea. These hair cells do not regenerate or re-grow so any damage to this part of the inner ear results in sensorineural hearing loss, the most common type of permanent hearing loss. Hearing health professionals know that circulatory issues can cause hearing loss. Research indicates that people with heart disease are 50% more likely to have hearing impairment. According to the American Diabetes Association, patients with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss as those individuals who do not. Smokers are more likely to develop hearing loss because of the depleted oxygen levels in the inner ear. Untreated high blood pressure can also contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears.
Why the connection with sleep apnea? Researchers think inflammation in blood vessels could be to blame, since the ear would be prone to that kind of damage. Sleep apnea causes major inflammation in the bloodstream and brain, which promotes vascular complications. People with sleep apnea have thicker blood and their blood clots more readily.
Sleep Apnea and Sudden Hearing Loss
The results published in Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery showed that men who experienced sudden deafness were 48% more likely to have previously been diagnosed with sleep apnea. According to the researchers, this shows a clear link between the two disorders. The sudden hearing loss or deafness is typically in one ear and, if treated promptly, is regained in a period of two to three weeks. Scientists do not yet understand the link between hearing loss and sleep problems. They have discovered that sleeping less – just over two nights – can harm blood vessel function. Your ears depend upon the blood that circulates in your body. The slowing of blood flow means fewer nutrients to the ear and this can lead to atrophy and destruction of the auditory hair cells. But this is a theory that has yet to be proven conclusively.
Treating Sleep Apnea
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with your physician. Before you go to the appointment, write down notes to help you remember when you think the sleeping issues started and how often you have difficulty sleeping. Mention any over-the-counter or prescription medications you may have tried to help your sleep quality. Discuss any lifestyle changes you may have already implemented that do not appear to help with sleep. Your physician may recommend changes such as weight loss, smoking cessation, use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or oral breathing devices to wear at night, medicine to help you stay awake during the day, and/or surgery to correct a blockage. This treatment will become a partnership of management between you and your physician. Ask to have your hearing tested even if you are not currently experiencing hearing difficulty. A baseline audiogram is important to help your physician monitor any changes in your hearing sensitivity over time.
These are some of the challenges faced by every hearing impaired person. In my own experience, the majority of hearing people never think about the relatively simple things that can make life easier for all of us. This poster illustrates a few of them.
Pat. Mitchell - Bi-lateral cochlear implantee.
Here at last is our 2018 revision of the "Hearing Loss and Hearing Solutions - A Guide" that we have published in PDF format for the enjoyment of users. Our original version was reviewed very favourably and attracted a lot of viewers.
You can view/download it from this link: Hearing Loss and Hearing Resources - A Guide (91 pages, 2.4 MB size).
Here are some of the professional comments about our new 2018 version.
Overall Reactions to Second Edition:
Monica Bray (Cochlear): I’ve just discovered the wonderful Hearing Guide. It's an awesome resource.
Jade Parr (Advanced Bionics): What a great resource.
Roberta Marino (Fiona Stanley Hospital) with permission:
I really enjoyed reading the guide! It's brilliant. So comprehensive, easy to read and relatable. I'm really impressed with the level of detail and can only imagine the hours you've spent researching new updates. The guide will positively impact so many people including professionals. I can see it being so useful for instance, at our hospital when new medicos have a rotation in the Ear, Nose and Throat Department or when we have new Audiology students in our Department who are new to implant devices. Again - well done! It's fantastic there's people like you who are so pro-active and care enough to put in the hundreds of hours required to develop such a useful and thorough guide.
Overall Reactions to First Edition:
Margaret Anderson: It's going to be a great resource for consumers and all sorts of people. Well done for tackling it!
Marie-Louise Hekel: Congratulations on this most thorough publication. You have done a splendid job. It would be a very valuable resource, not only for hearing impaired people, but professional audiologists in particular.
Roberta Marino: I think you’ve done a brilliant job. You really have a great understanding of how the different devices can be applied. If you don’t mind, when the product is finished, I’d like to pass it on to training ENT’s at the major teaching hospitals here in Perth and also the upcoming Audiology students.
Sarah McCullough (Advanced Bionics): Well done on all your hard work
Linda Ballam-Davies (Cochlear): It looks great and you've done a top job.