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Stress Awareness Month: How stress can affect your eyes and ears

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Almost everyone experiences stress at some point, especially if you’re going through a hectic phase in your life. If so, you’re not alone: stress is behind 40% of all days off work in the UK. So to help raise awareness of the condition during Stress Awareness Month this April, we’re focusing on some of the less well-known effects of stress: the impact on your eyes and ears.

Blood pressure and eyes

We all know stress can lead to high blood pressure, but did you know that an optometrist can see signs of high blood pressure simply by looking at the back of your eyes? That’s because the eyes (other than being the window to the soul, of course) are the only part of the body where small blood vessels – capillaries – are directly visible. This means we can see if the vessels have become thickened, narrowed or even burst. If we detect any of these signs you’ll be referred to your GP for precautionary general health and blood pressure assessments.

If left undetected and untreated, high blood pressure can potentially lead to blurred vision or floaters (tiny spots that float across your vision). Other symptoms of stress and the eyes include strain, soreness or twitching of the eye lids.

Stress-related eye conditions can be temporary. But if you have any on-going concerns about your vision, they might be related to other health and eye conditions. If you notice any changes with your eyes, get in touch with Leightons’ friendly eye specialists. We’re here to provide you with the eye care you need.

Stress and hearing loss

Prolonged stress can directly affect your ear health, causing conditions like hearing loss and tinnitus. As with your eyes, decreased circulation can also affect your ears, and chronic stress plays a big part in slowing blood flow.

When you’re stressed, the extra adrenaline can decrease or stop circulation in the inner ear, damaging or even destroying the essential tiny hair cells inside your ear. This can cause gradual hearing loss over time, or even sudden hearing loss if circulation stops completely. If your hearing loss is a reaction to stress then it’s often reversible: first cut out the stress for improved circulation (easier said than done – but take a look at this handy NHS stress buster guide for some starting points) and then even consider rehabilitation of your hair cells through sound therapy.

If you’re concerned about stress-induced hearing loss then look out for symptoms such as blocked ears, an inability to hear sounds at certain frequencies, a sensation of pressure in your ears, loss of hearing in one or both of your ears, sounds seeming more distant than usual, or tinnitus.

Stress and tinnitus

Tinnitus is common, affecting approximately one in ten UK adults. It’s often described as a ‘ringing in the ears’ or clicking, roaring, hissing or buzzing, while some people hear music-like sounds.

Despite being a highly frustrating and distracting condition, tinnitus isn’t yet fully understood, but stress is one of the main aggravators. There are successful treatments to help you manage the condition. Several hearing aids now include a range of effective tinnitus relief features, and many people find a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and sound enrichment therapy can help them manage their tinnitus. Again, reducing your stress levels is the best way to reduce stress-related tinnitus symptoms.

Don’t stress, get in touch

Whether you need an eye examination or our free tinnitus consultation service, get in touch with Leightons. You can book an appointment online or call us on 0800 40 20 20. We also carry out hearing test home visits – just call your local branch to find out more.

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