Headaches and hearing loss – what’s the link? According to recent studies, migraines could have more of an effect on hearing than we once thought.
Across the board, there are many different reasons why someone may lose their hearing, or experience some form of hearing loss. From those born with certain conditions to individuals that lose the ability to hear due to accident or injury. There’s no one way that problems with your hearing can occur. But according to recent research, individuals who suffer severe headaches, migraines specifically, are more likely to have issues with hearing in some instances. Based on these studies, there’s a more reliable link than ever before between sudden hearing loss and migraines.
For individuals that suffer frequent or debilitating migraine headaches, ensuring your hearing is checked regularly is more important than you might think. Migraines can be problematic on their own, but when combined with other conditions, the effects can be severe. But what does it mean to suffer hearing loss in combination with migraines? We’ve covered it all to provide an overview of exactly how these conditions are linked, and what it might mean for your hearing overall.
What are migraines?
If you’ve never experienced migraines in your life, then that’s not altogether unusual. According to statistics provided by the National Institutes of Health, only around 12% of Americans, for example, suffer from migraines. While it’s easy to think of these neurological conditions as just one of the types of headaches, migraine headaches can be far more severe than your typical head pain due to a night out, dehydration, or just feeling run down.
Some of the critical symptoms of migraine attacks, also known as secondary headaches, are pulsating-type pain. This is in addition to sensitivity to sounds and lights, nausea and vomiting, and even changes to vision. Vision changes can be anything from blurry sight to seeing auras – which are often bright spots or lines in vision. Pain to the side of the head is also a classic symptom. Despite this list, there’s no one way to have a migraine. Many people have migraines without aura, or migraines that are affected by sound but not bright lights. For some people, migraines are a response to stress or anxiety. For others, chronic migraines are a regular unwelcome part of life.
What’s the link between migraines and hearing loss?
While migraines can be problematic on their own, the real concern with these trigger migraines is the additional effects they can cause. According to a study by the Assiut University Department of Neurology and Psychology in Egypt, migraine is a neurological disease that can have a direct impact on your ability to hear. Through extensive testing, their researchers have found that migraines can directly impact the brain’s response to sound over time. This may be because of a lack of blood flow, as a result of how migraines affect the functionality of the brain.
A hemiplegic migraine is a type of headache within the migraine family that may be more likely to lead to these hearing issues. As one of the more severe migraines, visual disturbances, and even paralysis can result from this condition. Unlike regular migraines, these migraines can be incredibly debilitating physically. It’s this severity that may lead to further complications, such as hearing loss, further down the line.
What type of hearing loss is linked with migraines?
Based on research by Assiut University, as well as studies by Taipei Veterans General Hospital, individuals that suffer from migraines are almost twice as likely to develop a condition called SSHL. Standing for sudden sensorineural hearing loss, this specific type of hearing issue presents itself as a rapid loss of hearing. This could occur in one ear or both ears and can happen gradually over several days or immediately.
SSHL is a particular form of hearing loss and is different from conductive hearing loss because there is no physical blockage. The research has shown that those with migraines are more likely to experience SSHL – which suggests a link between these two neurological problems that still need to be researched. While migraines certainly aren’t the only cause of hearing loss, it’s a risk that fewer people know about. Which makes it even more important to raise awareness.
How can hearing loss from migraines be treated?
If you currently suffer from migraine headaches, including those that amplify sound, then seeking treatment is the best course of action. Treatment for migraines themselves can widely vary, from simply resting to medical intervention in extreme cases. There has been success with some methods of treatment to help relieve these severe headaches, as well as simply taking painkillers. Treating migraines and receiving help to resolve or reduce them may lessen your chance of a disease like SSHL from occurring. As a result, managing your migraines in the first place may prevent hearing loss from ever occurring.
For those that have migraines and suffer from hearing loss that’s sudden or immediate, seeking urgent medical treatment should be your first step. Sudden loss of hearing can be a symptom of a range of conditions, including infections or head injury. Alongside seeking immediate medical care, if you suffer from migraines, it’s essential to be proactive instead of reactive. Speaking to a hearing care professional, booking in hearing tests, and even opting for hearing aids can all help to preserve your hearing and prevent it from worsening in the long-term.
Research is ongoing to figure out how best to treat SSHL once it occurs. It’s crucial to spot SSHL as early as possible – if your hearing seems to be getting worse over a few days, don’t wait to seek treatment. According to recent statistics, with prompt treatment, as much as 85% of people with SSHL can potentially regain hearing.
If you suffer from migraines, regular hearing tests are a great way to ensure your hearing is still on-track.
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