Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Hearing Loss

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?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16 thoughts on “Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Hearing Loss

  1. Yes, besides severe OSA with extreme hypoxia I also have hearing loss. Mostly in the upper frequencies, spotty frequency wise, but about even in terms of the amount of loss in either ear.

    I also have tinnitus. The tenor and loudness I can almost use as an indicator of my current executive functioning and/or state of vigilance. It often makes conversation difficult since it will drowned out the person I am talking to, especially if I have an emotional reaction to what they are saying.

    My question is what could be done to make ones blood a bit thinner in the morning?

    Thanks!!

    Tod

  2. Just a thought I wanted to share after reading your article…

    My husband has severe OSA and hasn’t really been the most diligent patient. He has a cpap and wears it religiously but doesn’t follow up with his Dr. when things aren’t going well. He says he’s too tired but I’m guessing its more of a mental thing and he’s overwhelmed. Anyway, I’ve been interested in researching everything I can about the condition to help motivate him to get over the “maintain” hump because his OSA is really taking a toll on our household. He’s only 28 and I couldn’t imagine waking up to the worst case scenario so the bare minimum treatment plan is no more!

    I am not a medical professional so I’m sure I may get some of the facts confused but please bear with me. I read an article about an orthodontist in Ohio who can identify teens with OSA based on the placement of their hyoid bone in the x-ray. Not knowing much about anatomy, I looked into that first and found that it’s a bone suspended solely by muscles. The location of a lower hyoid bone (OSA indicator) appears to be close in proximity to the soft palate, a location for a common surgical procedure to treat OSA. I also read that the hyoid bone is known to sit very high in trained opera singers which made me think of a study I read about some time ago regarding successful treatment for OSA with tongue exercises, e.g. singing. Then, I remembered another thing I had read about the diabetes/SA link and gestational diabetes, where I learned that progesterone plays a roll in insulin release, is a tongue muscle strengthener and airway dilator. Then I came across some research where they monitored patients with OSA after undergoing mandibular advancement surgery. The patients had positive results (opened airway/brachial plexus) and the effects were a noticeable shift in the location of the hyoid bone and C3 vertebrae but after a year, the hyoid and C3 returned to its original location.

    The number of OSA patients is on the rise and is very common in truck drivers. I started to wonder if OSA could be a postural problem (trained opera singers should have excellent posture). Also, the condition is seen more frequently in men than women, which sort of backs up the progesterone info. After I read your article above, I was interested in asking how likely the posture theory is because hearing would be a nervous system issue, and the auditory nerves would pass through the cervical spine. Would physical therapy or chiropractic care to “straighten out” your posture (or fix the cervical curve) in addition to cpap usage be the way to go?

  3. Christen; you are wondering if posture affects the airway, but actually the airway affects posture; people will adjust their head and neck position to open the airway. so you can go to the chiropractor but your body will go back to the position that is easiest to breathe in.

    Dr. Park; last night I found a study looking at people with COPD who are known to have hypercapnia, and there was a direct relationship between their hypercapnia and their neuropathy. as their lung function improved, their neuropathy went away. so hypercapnia might be a mechanism for nerve damage in SDB.

  4. Conclusion. OSA is independently associated with poorer central auditory function in older subjects.

    The study results say nothing about improving hearing loss by using a CPAP and if OSA is also correlated with Tinnitus, and Position Vertigo.

  5. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea last year. I also have high blood pressure, yet I am not overweight, I am actually underweight. I was also diagnosed with hearing loss last year, after I finally went to an ENT because I could not hear the tv, when my family members could. I have had problems with the right side of my face feeling numb for about 4 years, even before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and now I have hearing loss in my right ear. I am pretty much convinced that I have had a small stroke because of the sleep apnea, but the docs tell me they don’t think there is a link. I am 35 years old.

  6. I was originally diagnosed with OSA in 2003 and started C PAP therapy shortly therafter. I then started having bouts with tinnutis that was diagnosed as autoimmune inner ear because of my response to predisone which stopped the ringing for a time period until it starts again and back to the steroids. I had significant hearing loss in one ear before this started which I wrote off to industrial noise but just the one ear. Since 2003 this has been a continous cycle.Is there a direct link to OSA and or therapy and hearing loss and what tests maybe available?

  7. Joe,

    Although I propose a possible link, practically speaking, your two conditions should be treated separately. My feeling is that treating obstructive sleep apnea can aggravate or bring to light any underlying inner ear nerve problems.

  8. From an ebook on AntiPhospholipid syndrome
    “Hearing Impairment in APS
    Hearing loss can be caused due to impairment of blood supply to the cochlear
    nerve, and aPL might affect thrombosis in these small vessels. Indeed, these
    autoantibodies have been detected in some of the patients having sudden hearing
    loss, in a varying frequency from very low to even about quarter of the cases. The
    most frequent autoantibody was aCL. Sudden hearing loss also occurs in
    increased frequency in other autoimmune diseases such as lupus or Sjogren’s
    syndrome, but even in these diseases it is associated with the presence of aPL.”

    there was a study I found last year that showed that CPAP can decrease the anticardiolipin titer (aCL above). so I think you are correct here, and that sleep apnea may play a causative role in APS.

  9. My 10 month old daughter was 10 weeks premature, we’re going to the hospital soon to have a sleep pattern test, as she is restless at night while sleeping, snores very louldly etc… My main concern is that she has hearing loss, so they are seeing if this is linked, if so, is there anything that can be done for her to regain her hearing? Or is that it?

    Thank you

    Natasha

  10. After a somnography determined mild osa, I started cpap in June last year. I broke my nose as a kid, have a deviated septum and a long history of sinusitis. Several months into the therapy the sinusitis got worse so was sent to an allergist and started nasal rinses and Nasonex after diagnosing “cpap rhinitis”. After several months with no improvement and noticing a decline in hearing I was referred to an ENT who did a CT scan and hearing test and prescribed amoxycilin and prednisone. After conferring with the sleep doc I stopped cpap since it seemed to be exacerbating the sinusitis and driving the infection into the eustachian tube. Had to stop the prednisone after a week because of my gastroenterologists recommendation. Am starting my 3rd week of antibiotics (4-6 was the initial estimate), continue the nasal rinse and Nasonex. Have noticed some improvement in the sinusitis but not much in hearing. Am extremely tired with the sleep disturbances, getting up to urinate. Need a nap to get thru the day. Have heard about corrective surgery for deviated septum, mixed reviews on whether the antibiotics will return hearing to normal and really wonder what to do? No side effects were mentioned when I started cpap. Had no problem adjusting and thought it a wise investment for my heart as well as improving the quality of my life. Seemed to be headed that way until the problems started to appear. What would you suggest? Thanks! Patrick

  11. Diagnosed with OSA in 2002. Started Bi-PAP therapy 2003. Hearing loss became apparent in 2008. 2010 Audiologist recommended bi-lateral HA’s. Began wearing HA’s 12/2010. Developed chronic post nasal drip and sinus problems. Recent development of Eustachian tube blockage has further impaired my hearing. Recent retest on hearing loss shows continued deterioration but two different ENT’s have continued with their diagnosis as idiopathic. No sign of any infection [but no tests for infection conducted]. ENT’s offered to insert eardrum tubes but I have refused at this point. Currently under care of acupuncturist – herbalist but only have had 3 treatments to date. Thinking I am consideringl terminating my Auto-Bi-Pap use for a few weeks and see if there is any improvements.

    Interested any comments from anyone who had positive results from discontinuing CPAP.

    Thanks
    Jim

  12. Diagnosed with OSA in 2002. Started Bi-PAP therapy 2003. Hearing loss became apparent in 2008. 2010 Audiologist recommended bi-lateral HA’s. Began wearing HA’s 12/2010. Developed chronic post nasal drip and sinus problems. Recent development of Eustachian tube blockage has further impaired my hearing. Recent retest on hearing loss shows continued deterioration but two different ENT’s have continued with their diagnosis as idiopathic. No sign of any infection [but no tests for infection conducted]. ENT’s offered to insert eardrum tubes but I have refused at this point. Currently under care of acupuncturist – herbalist but only have had 3 treatments to date. I am consideringl terminating my Auto-Bi-Pap use for a few weeks and see if there is any improvements.

    Interested any comments from anyone who had positive results from discontinuing CPAP.

    Thanks
    Jim

  13. This article sheds some light on what I have been going through. I have had sleep apnea since i was young. i started using a cpap machine in 08 after I had a blood clot in my left leg two different times. In two thousand ten my right ear started ringing, which I have been attributing to playing music. After reading this article I feel the apnea is the cause of most of my medical issues.
    Snoring makes the tinnitus worse. Is there a cure for the hearing loss??? please email me.

  14. JD,

    Unfortunately, there’s no cure for hearing loss, but if there is a connection between sleep apnea and nerve deafness, then treating sleep apnea can in theory prevent further hearing loss.