Severe sleep disorder linked to sudden deafness, study says


Cases of sudden loss of hearing could possibly be traced to severe sleep disorder or medically called sleep apnea which interferes with breathing.

A recently released study which looked into a large file of insurance database, cited that researchers were able to establish a link between sudden deafness and the previous diagnosis of sleep apnea.

The research study, which was led by Dr. Jau-Jiuan Sheu, of Taipei Medical University Hospital, covered almost 3,200 cases diagnosed with sudden deafness between 2000 and 2008.

A comparison made between a group without hearing loss and those having hearing problems bared that previous history of sleep disorder were noted to have existed to a certain degree among those suffering from sudden deafness.

While the absolute difference was minimal, with 1.7 percent of those with hearing loss had sleep apnea, as against the 1.2 percent without hearing trouble the pattern still indicate significant correlation.

Sleep apnea is a condition wherein there is closing off of the airways during sleep, leading to repeated drops in oxygen levels in the blood and frequent short wake-ups, along with snoring.

But the new study however, doesn’t categorically point to sleep apnea can cause sudden hearing loss, as there are other variables to factor in such as smoking and drinking habits, which could be predisposing factors.

Dr. Seva Polotsky, a sleep apnea researcher from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore said that the study posed more questions than answers. ”Obviously we don’t know from this paper whether treating apnea will reduce hearing loss,” or the chance of having hearing problems in the first place,” he stressed.

He added though that it’s possible that sleep apnea, which is known to increase the buildup of plaque in blood vessels, could affect vessels in areas of the brain that control hearing, or vessels that feed the nerves responsible for hearing.

Jon Mills

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