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Sleep Apnea & Sudden Hearing Loss: Is There A Connection?

Posted Jan 20 2012 9:54pm

I’ve been saying all along that people with sudden sensorineural hearing loss have higher rates of sleep-breathing problems. Almost 100% of the time, whenever I see someone with sudden hearing loss that’s not explained by a brain tumor, the upper airway looks exactly like someone who has obstructive sleep apnea. These people typically can’t or prefer not to sleep on their backs. Many will also snore, and have parents that snore heavily.

A recent article published in the Archives of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery found that people with sudden sensorineural hearing loss were more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. The authors combed  through insurance records and found that, after adjusting for various confounding factors, male patients with this type of hearing loss were 1.4 times more likely to have prior OSA than controls. This was statistically significant. The fact that women didn’t have this finding could be explained by the fact that the overall numbers of people with sudden sensorineural hearing loss is very small, and men have a much higher rate of obstructive sleep apnea than women. Just like all other medical journal articles, it concludes by saying this doesn’t prove that sleep apnea causes sudden sensorineural hearing loss, and that further studies are needed.

The authors’ explanation is that plaque buildup in blood vessels that reach the inner ears can clog up and create blockages. I’ve written in the past that people with OSA have much thicker blood, which can also clot more easily. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea causes massive inflammation in blood vessels and the brain, which can lead to a variety of medical ailments.

If you’ve ever suffered from sudden sensorineural hearing loss, can you sleep on your back at all? 

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