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New Study Shows the Benefits of Hearing Birds

If you have untreated hearing loss, you might be missing a lot of sounds in your everyday life. You might have difficulty understanding speech, making conversations with your family and friends challenging. You might not be able to hear your favorite music, movies, or TV shows without turning the volume up much higher than you used to. You might not be able to hear the sounds of nature, like the water rushing past in a river or birds singing in the trees. If you are unable to hear the birds, you might be missing out on more than the sweet sound of bird chirps and whistles. New research shows that seeing and hearing birds is good for your mental health—and if you cannot hear birds, you are missing out on those benefits.

The research, which was published in 2022, found that seeing or hearing birds is associated with an improvement in mental wellbeing. The study was conducted by researchers at King’s College London between April 2018 and October 2021 with 1,292 participants. These participants completed a total of 26,856 assessments with the Urban Mind app, which was developed by King’s College London, landscape architects J&L Gibbons, and arts foundation Nomad Projects. While participants were recruited worldwide, the majority were based in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

In the study, participants used the app to answer questions three times a day about whether they could see or hear birds. They were then asked questions about their mental wellbeing, which allowed researchers to establish an association between the two. Researchers were also able to estimate how long this association lasted.

The results show that seeing or hearing birds is associated with improvements in mental wellbeing in both healthy people and those with depression. Researchers estimate that the positive effects of seeing or hearing birds can last for up to eight hours.

Listening to the sounds of nature has long been hypothesized to benefit mental wellbeing. Many people enjoy listening to nature sounds, including the sounds of birds, to help them relax and relieve stress. However, this is the first study to provide scientific evidence of the connection between seeing or hearing birds and mental wellbeing.

This study shows that going outside and seeing or hearing birds is a simple way to improve your mental wellbeing—with the benefits lasting for up to eight hours! Going outside to watch or listen to birds just once a day could potentially bring noticeable mental health benefits. If you are unable to hear the birds when you are outside, you could be missing out on significant mental wellbeing benefits (not to mention beautiful birdsongs!). With treatment, such as wearing hearing aids, you can once again enjoy the sound of birds, along with many other sounds you may be missing out on if you have untreated hearing loss.

To learn more about the association between hearing birds and mental wellbeing, and to set up an appointment with our hearing aid specialist to ensure that you can hear birds when you are outside, we welcome you to contact our office today.

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Hearing Loss and Sleep Apnea

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may have told you that sleep apnea puts you at increased risk for a number of other health conditions, including heart problems, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver problems, and more. However, did you know that sleep apnea also increases your risk for hearing loss?

What is sleep apnea?

There is more than one type of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is obstructed during sleep, typically when the muscles in the throat relax or when the tongue falls back in the mouth. This results in pauses in breathing and causes the person to wake up, often feeling out of breath.

Obstructive sleep apnea is often associated with snoring. Other common symptoms of OSA include excessive daytime drowsiness, irritability, difficulty staying asleep, awakening with a dry mouth, gasping for air during sleep, and difficulty paying attention while awake. Factors that increase a person’s risk for OSA include excess weight, being older, being male, greater neck circumference, smoking, and use of alcohol or sedatives.

What is the link between sleep apnea and hearing loss?

According to a 2022 study published in the journal Clinical Otolaryngology, people with sleep apnea are 21 percent more likely to have hearing loss. The study observed nearly 7,000 older adults in Europe. Based on the results, the study authors urge people with obstructive sleep apnea to undergo screening for hearing loss.

While this study is the most recent one to explore the connection between sleep apnea and hearing loss, it is not the only one. Another study assessed almost 14,000 using in-home sleep apnea studies and on-site audiometric testing. The researchers found that hearing impairment was more common among those who snored, had a higher body mass index (BMI), and had severe sleep apnea.

An additional, smaller study analyzed the oxygen levels of people with severe obstructive sleep apnea. Those with the lowest oxygen levels were much more likely to have hearing impairment.

These studies show that a link exists between hearing loss and sleep apnea. However, researchers are not exactly certain what causes the connection. One theory is that because sleep apnea reduces blood flow to the ears, the ears do not receive enough blood supply to work properly.

Another hypothesis is that years of snoring (strongly associated with sleep apnea) can cause damage to the ears’ sensitive hair cells. This would result in sensorineural hearing loss, with is the most common type of permanent hearing loss.

How can you reduce the risk of hearing loss if you have sleep apnea?

If you have sleep apnea, the best thing you can do for your hearing health and your overall health is to treat your sleep apnea. For most people with OSA, the recommended treatment option is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that is worn while you sleep. Oral breathing devices may also be available to treat sleep apnea. Other sleep apnea treatments include surgery to correct a blockage and medicine to help you stay awake during the day. In addition, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes like weight loss or smoking cessation.

If you have sleep apnea or you snore, it is important that you receive a hearing screening. Treatment is also available for hearing loss. To learn more about the connection between sleep apnea and hearing loss, and to schedule your appointment with our hearing specialist, we invite you to contact our office today.