New York: Sudden hearing loss might be tied to an underlying sleep disorder that interrupts breathing, suggests a new study from Taiwan.Consulting a large health insurance database, researchers found that people who`d suffered sudden deafness were more likely to have a previous diagnosis of sleep apnea than a comparison group without hearing loss.The absolute difference was small: 1.7 percent of those with hearing loss had sleep apnea, compared to 1.2 percent without hearing trouble."If there is sudden hearing loss, I would investigate the presence of apnea as well, given that it`s easy to diagnose and it`s easy to treat," said Dr. Seva Polotsky, a sleep apnea researcher from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore who wasn`t involved in the new study."Obviously we don`t know from this paper whether treating apnea will reduce hearing loss," or the chance of having hearing problems in the first place.For now, he said, "There are more questions than answers."Polotsky added, it`s possible that sleep apnea, which is known to increase the buildup of plaque in blood vessels, could affect vessels in areas of the brain that control hearing, or vessels that feed the nerves responsible for hearing.But he said more research will be needed to find out what could be behind this link -- or whether something besides the apnea, itself, might explain an increased risk of deafness.
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