Sleep Apnea, Sudden Deafness Linked

A New Taiwanese Study Suggests That People Suffering From Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Are At A Slightly Greater Risk of Developing Sudden Hearing Loss.

OSA is a nighttime disorder that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. Previous studies had linked untreated OSA to high blood pressure, heart attack, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, obesity, diabetes, unusual daytime sleepiness and an increased risk of injury and death due to drowsiness. Researchers at the Taipei Medical University Hospital reviewed health records of one million people including 19,000 individuals with sleep apnea. The results showed that from 3,200 cases of sudden deafness 240 were suffering from sleep apnea before experiencing the hearing problem, said the report published in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

After considering factors like obesity and heart disease that could be related to both sleep apnea and hearing loss, Dr. Jau-Jiuan Sheu and colleagues found that men with sudden deafness were 48 percent more likely to have a previous sleep apnea diagnosis. Although the absolute difference was small and just 0.5 percent, researchers suggested in cases of sudden hearing loss, doctors may investigate the presence of apnea, which is easy to diagnose and treat among different associated risks. Researchers suggested that inflammation and changes in blood vessels linked to sleep apnea could contribute to the risk of deafness.