Do you have muscle tension, headaches, or trouble sleeping? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of stress. This is a term we often throw around in everyday situations and attribute as an emotion. In fact, stress is not as much emotion as a process your body undergoes to protect itself. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can affect your physical body, mental health, and behavior. If you see changes in any of these areas, adopting calming techniques could mitigate some of the unnatural stress in your life.
How stress affects the body
The body’s response to stress is to release chemicals into the bloodstream that will improve mood or protect the physical body. Essentially, stress helps the body adapt to a challenging situation. Individuals handle stress differently, and while some people cope better than others, stress still affects everyone. Short-term stress, often coming along with the feeling of nervousness or discomfort, can actually benefit you. Think about preparing for an interview or carrying heavy weights at the gym. Both are types of stress that can improve your mental or physical body over time.
However, chronic or traumatic stress negatively affects you over time. Think of major life changes like a divorce or long term struggles with finances. This type of stress can hurt your health. The National Institute of Mental Health states that chronic stress leads to issues with digestion, sleep, immunity, and reproduction, resulting in issues like depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
How stress affects hearing
When stress goes unchecked, it can also affect your hearing. Stress and adrenaline in the body alter blood flow, something that is incredibly important to hearing health. The small hairs inside your ear require oxygen and nutrients provided by blood, so without the consistent flow, ear cells are damaged. Another result of life-long stress is hypertension and high blood pressure, which also lead to hearing loss, muffled hearing, or pain in the ears.
The International Tinnitus Journal published a study linking stress with tinnitus, determining that stress leads to lowered blood supply, which decreases oxygen flow, which then causes damaged ear cells, and eventually hearing loss. This is unfortunately a challenging cycle because tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, brings more stress to your life and restarts the process of hearing damage.
Worried that stress is affecting your health and hearing? Try out some of these methods that bring order and calm to your life:
- Adopt a regular exercise regime
- Try meditation or breathing exercises
- Talk to your family and friends about personal issues
- Make an appointment with a mental health professional
- Remove any self-sabotaging habits like overeating, smoking, or substance abuse
- Break down overwhelming tasks
- Embrace new or old hobbies
Stress with inevitably be part of your life, but don’t let it control you or your hearing!
By: Diana Ford
Sources: Mayo Clinic, NIMH, International Tinnitus Journal