Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Just in case you needed a reason to get a few more hours of sleep, here’s one: You hear better when you’re well rested.
Research indicates people who are well rested have active temporal lobes, which is the area of the brain that processes sound and interprets it as language. Those who were sleep deprived did not show activity in this area, likely because the brain was trying to conserve resources. The problem is amplified for those with untreated hearing loss because of the energy and concentration it takes to be adept at lip reading.
How sleep deprivation affects your hearing
Researchers have also discovered that lack of sleep can harm blood vessel function. Because the auditory hair cells of the inner ear depend upon good blood flow, slower blood flow can permanently damage this part of the ear. These hair cells are responsible for translating the sounds our ears collect into electrical impulses for the brain to interpret as recognizable sound and do not regenerate once they are damaged or die.
If you have difficulty falling asleep and staying that way, you may want to see your family doctor. He or she can refer you to a sleep specialist to make sure you do not have sleep apnea, a common disorder affecting approximately 18 million Americans. Individuals with this disorder often snore and gasp or snort periodically during their sleep cycle. Researchers now believe that sleep apnea may be an indicator of hearing loss, along with other systemic and chronic diseases such as general inflammation, cardiovascular and endocrine problems.
If you’re not suffering from a sleep disorder, you may just have poor sleep habits. In that case, consider making these adjustments to help you get a full night of sleep:
- Be consistent. Develop a bedtime routine that tells your body it’s time to go to sleep.
- Caffeine and alcohol can interrupt your sleep patterns. Try to avoid eating or drinking anything with these ingredients 8 hours before bedtime.
- Get 20-30 minutes of exercise daily, preferably not right before you go to bed.
- Participate in a relaxing activity, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book, just before bed.
- Try to avoid interacting with personal electronic devices such as laptops and smart phones that give off blue light. Researchers believe this light interferes with the body’s ability to fall asleep.
Why you should take hearing aids out before you sleep
If you wear hearing aids, be sure to remove them before you go to bed for these reasons:
- They’re uncomfortable to wear and may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep – or wake you up in the middle of the night.
- Your ear canal needs time to rest and air out.
- Hearing aids need to dry out. Most experts recommend removing the batteries, cleaning the hearing aids and leaving the battery door open to air out.
If you are afraid of missing important sounds while you sleep, there are bed shaking alarm clocks, vibrating cell phone alarms and flashing fire alarms that can wake you up.
How much sleep does the average adult require?
Health experts agree that the average adult needs between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, although that number varies depending upon a person’s overall health and lifestyle. Regardless, if you aren’t sleeping well, you owe it to yourself to find out why. By developing good bedtime habits and consulting with your family physician, you can sleep your way to better hearing health.