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Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Hearing Loss

Posted Jan 22 2011 6:45am

I’ve always suspected that nerve deafness may be one of the consequences of obstructive sleep apnea, but there’s been little research in this area. However, a new study out of Korea shows that in the elderly, having obstructive sleep apnea significantly increases your chances of have nerve deafness, particularly due to a problem in the central nervous system.

This finding is not surprising, since sleep apnea causes a hyper-coagulable state, with blood being more stagnant and tending to clot, in addition to additional inflammatory factors that can cause damage. It’s also been shown that blood is thicker and more viscous in people with sleep apnea. In fact, a recent study showed that people with obstructive sleep apnea had thicker blood than normal, and by diluting the blood concentration with saline, auditory brainstem reflexes improved to the point of being normal. Placing these people on CPAP also normalized hearing reflexes.

Recent brain imaging studies have shown that hypoxia in the brain from sleep apnea can cause major vascular and tissue damage, affecting critical areas of the brain, including the brainstem. The risk of stroke is also increased by more than 3 times if you have sleep apnea. Knowing all this, it’s not surprising that you can have either brainstem damage or peripheral inner ear vascular damage from untreated obstructive sleep apnea. One study showed that people with sudden one sided hearing loss from nerve damage have a higher risk of having sleep apnea.

I think that nerve deafness is part of the cardiovascular-metabolic process, going along with hypertension, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart disease. What you you think? If you have sleep apnea, do you have any hearing loss?

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