The Connection Between Tinnitus and Sleep Apnea 

The Connection Between Tinnitus and Sleep Apnea 

There is no external sound that may trigger tinnitus, and most people will not be able to hear it if you have it. Tinnitus is characterised mostly by a constant ringing in the ears, although it can also cause other sensations, such as clicking, humming, whistling, and buzzing.

There is a correlation between tinnitus and sleep apnea, thus having this condition might be a sign that you have an underlying sleep issue that has yet to be detected. When you have tinnitus, your ears constantly ring or make other noises. It affects between 15% and 20% of the adult population.

Tinnitus can be one of two basic categories. The most frequent kind of tinnitus is subjective tinnitus, which only you can hear. The sufferer and, in certain cases, others are able to pick up on objective tinnitus.

The symptoms of tinnitus can be intermittent, meaning they only occur sometimes, or constant, meaning they are always present, even at night, disrupting sleep and often leading to sleep problems. Sometimes the noises are so intense or intrusive that they make it hard to think clearly or distinguish between other sounds.

See also: The Best CPAP Chin Straps and Who Needs It.

Exposure to loud noises, becoming older, and using substances like alcohol or cigarettes can further increase your chance of developing tinnitus. Also increasing your risk are illnesses including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, and head traumas.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Its Association With Other Disorders.

When your airway is obstructed, either partially or fully, you get obstructive sleep apnea, which disrupts your sleep and makes it hard to breathe. Snoring excessively, gasping or choking sounds in the night, and daytime sleepiness are all frequent manifestations of this condition. 

Sufferers of sleep apnea may have breathing cessations as many as 30 times in an hour. It is dangerous to go without oxygen to your body and brain while you sleep. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and anxiety are just a few of the numerous health problems that have been linked to sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea has been linked to or exacerbated by a number of disorders, and it just so happens that some of these are also associated with a worsening of tinnitus, at least in some studies. For instance, tinnitus has been related to illnesses like diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Getting tested for sleep apnea and treating it if found to be the cause of your symptoms can help your tinnitus therapy in a roundabout way.

If you have diabetes, you should know that sleep apnea causes impaired glucose tolerance and decreased sensitivity to insulin because of fragmented sleep and breathing disruptions. Cortisol, a stress hormone, inhibits insulin’s ability to work in cells, and sleep apnea is a known contributor to its production. This makes diabetes worse and harder to cure.

Sleep apnea, especially if left untreated, is a primary contributor to hypertension and high blood pressure. This is because your heart has to work harder to pump blood with oxygenated blood while you sleep due to a drop in oxygen levels. Your already high blood pressure will rise even more as a result of this additional strain on your arterial walls.

Norepinephrine (adrenaline) levels rise when you have hypopneas (pauses in breathing) throughout the night. If you want to quickly and significantly increase your blood pressure, norepinephrine is your best bet.

It is essential to highlight these two disorders in particular since they may play a significant role in your tinnitus and ear ringing, as will be explained below.

Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

Numerous studies have found that 90% of patients with tinnitus also have some degree of hearing loss. You only have a problem with your hearing in the ear in which you’ve noticed it. 

When high-frequency hearing is lost, it’s common for people to have tinnitus in the form of a high-pitched ringing or hissing.

If you are having high frequency hearing loss, a hearing aid may help you by recovering your hearing in that range, and thereby masking some of the phantom noises you are experiencing. This may lessen the severity of the tinnitus and bring some welcome respite.

What Role Sleep Apnea Plays in Hearing Loss

In addition to the predicted link to hearing loss, tinnitus has also been linked to trouble sleeping. There may be a feedback loop at play here, as up to 71% of people with tinnitus also experience sleep disturbances, and sleep deprivation has been linked to chronic tinnitus.

Hypopnea with hearing loss?

Having sleep apnea does not cause hearing loss, but it may increase your risk of it. Treating both sleep apnea and hearing loss at the same time is now possible because to the recently discovered relationship between the two conditions.

Sleep apnea has been linked to an increased chance of hearing loss, with one study out of Albany Medical College finding a 30 percent increased risk. Thirty-three percent of the participants complained of hearing loss, and ten percent said they suffered from sleep apnea. 

Slightly more than 11% of the study population had sleep apnea, and those with hearing loss were more likely to have it than the general population.

Scientists think low oxygen levels in the blood during sleep apnea contribute to hearing loss. Reduced oxygen levels may cause long-term damage to cochlear cells (the cells in your ears), which can lead to hearing loss and problems like tinnitus.

Sleep apnea has been linked to an already negative perception of hearing loss, according to the study authors. It stands to reason that tinnitus would be more intolerable if you weren’t getting enough rest. Tinnitus makes it difficult to go asleep and remain asleep, and frustration with the condition only makes things worse.

Hearing loss and tinnitus are only two symptoms of sleep apnea, which, fortunately, may be treated along with the underlying cause of the problem, which might be anything from diabetes to high blood pressure.

Why and how CPAP is useful in treating tinnitus

The most common apnea therapy for OSA is a CPAP machine, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It’s not just good for treating sleep apnea, but also for fixing whatever’s making you sleepy in the first place.

If you have trouble breathing while you sleep, CPAP can help. It works by directing a steady stream of air into your airway, where it is supported at all times. By doing so, oxygen can reach your brain and the rest of your body.

Treatment with CPAP decreases 24-hour glucose levels, enhances glucose responsiveness, and mitigates morning blood pressure increases in diabetic patients. People with hypertension can benefit from a larger arterial size and a decrease in hypertension with the use of CPAP.

Is CPAP effective in treating tinnitus, and how so?

Reduced oxygen levels during apnea can damage the cells in your ears, leading to hearing loss and tinnitus, as we discussed in the previous section. By increasing blood oxygen levels and decreasing ear pressure, CPAP treatment can help alleviate tinnitus. Doing so can protect your hearing cells from suffering further damage.

Tinnitus and hearing loss are illnesses that are more likely to manifest in those who have preexisting health issues, such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease. Treatment and prevention of cardiovascular issues including excessive blood pressure and heart disease also benefit greatly from CPAP use. Potential hearing loss or ear diseases can be treated together with these.

Although continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can be helpful in managing tinnitus, the condition remains incurable. However, if the underlying cause can be addressed, it may be possible to effectively cure the other symptoms as well.


Despite the fact that tinnitus alone may not indicate sleep apnea, there is a strong correlation between the two conditions. Tinnitus treatment can be helpful, but if you’re still having trouble sleeping every night, and it’s not because of your tinnitus, you may have a sleep problem.

A sleep specialist at Air Liquide Healthcare can help you examine your symptoms and choose the best course of therapy once you have a better grasp of what those symptoms are.