If you sleep in the same room with a snorer, you know it can be an annoyance, and make you lose sleep. Recent research is also finding, however, that pesky noise can do even more damage than that. If you sleep beside someone who snores, you may be at a higher risk for hearing loss than someone who does not.
Researchers performed hearing tests on healthy middle-aged adults who regularly slept next to snoring partners. The analysis showed that each of the four subjects had high-frequency hearing loss in the ear closest to the snoring partner. This finding suggests that snoring can actually cause hearing damage. Snores as loud as 100 decibels have been recorded during sleep, and sounds of over 85 decibels have the potential to damage hearing.
It turns out the snorers themselves can also be in danger of hearing damage, but for a different reason. People who snore sometimes suffer from sleep apnea, a condition in which they stop breathing for a few seconds at a time. In affected individuals, they may experience these “breathing pauses” as often as 30 to 40 times in one night. Although it is unclear why, sleep apnea is associated with a higher incidence of high- and low-frequency hearing loss in addition to other health concerns. Evidence suggests that sleep apnea may injure a structure in the inner ear called the cochlea, which houses tiny hairs that transmit sound to the brain.
If you or your bed partner snore, it is important to see a doctor to evaluate the possibility of sleep apnea. If you share a bed with a snoring partner, ear plugs can block the sounds of snoring and protect your hearing. Be sure to have your hearing tested regularly as well.