Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Auditory Dysfunction—Does Snoring Sound Play a Role?

Chun Ting Lu, Li Ang Lee, Guo She Lee, Hsueh Yu Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objective of the study was to investigate the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and auditory dysfunction, and to clarify the role of snoring sounds in contributing to auditory dysfunction. A comprehensive assessment of OSA and the auditory system was performed, including overnight polysomnography, detection of the intra-ear canal snoring sound energy (SSE), pure tone average (PTA), tinnitus pitch matching, the tinnitus handicap inventory (THI), and the Epworth sleepiness scale (ESS). The patients were identified as having tinnitus if their THI score was higher than zero or their tinnitus pitches were matched to specific frequencies. The median age, body mass index, and apnea–hypopnea index score were 41 years, 26.4 kg/m2, and 29.9 events/h, respectively. Among the 50 participants, 46 (92%) had a normal PTA, and only 4 (8%) patients had mild hearing loss. There was no significant difference in PTA among OSA severities (p = 0.52). Among the 50 participants, 33 patients (66%) were identified as having tinnitus. In the tinnitus group (n = 33), the ESS score (p = 0.01) and intra-ear canal SSE of 851–1500 Hz (p = 0.04) were significantly higher than those in the non-tinnitus group (n = 17). OSA patients with a higher ESS score had a higher risk of tinnitus (odds ratio 1.22 [95% CI: 1.01–1.46]). OSA-related auditory dysfunction emerged in tinnitus rather than in hearing impairment. OSA patients with daytime sleepiness had a higher risk of tinnitus. High-frequency SSE can jeopardize cochlea and is a potential mechanism contributing to tinnitus. Detection of snoring sounds through an intra-ear canal device may be more precise in assessing acoustic trauma from snoring sounds to vulnerable auditory system and thus warrants further research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2374
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • auditory dysfunction
  • intra-ear canal snoring sound energy
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • snoring
  • tinnitus


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