The connection between chronic stress and hearing loss is not actually that complicated. The workings of the ear are very dependent on healthy blood circulation; stress wreaks havoc with the cardiovascular system. That’s the direct line.

What stress does is release a host of hormones into the blood system (with adrenaline being one of the most prominent). This increases heart rate and pushes up blood pressure. This fight-or-flight response is deeply entrenched in human physiology.

And unlike our distant forebears, the realities of modern life mean that the vast majority of us aren’t “burning” that stress off by being physically active for long stretches of the day. Let’s face it, most of us sit a lot.

This ongoing stress to the cardiovascular system eventually makes its way to the delicate parts of the inner ear that require constant nutrient replenishment. And, unfortunately, once the damage is done it cannot be undone. That’s why maintaining good circulation is so important to maintaining good hearing.

So, given how much stress we’ve all been dealing with this year — and let’s face it, next year is not shaping up to be much better — what can one do?

Again, the answers aren’t too complicated. Exercise is always going to benefit overall health, especially cardiovascular fitness. Meditation and other focused, relaxing pursuits are known to reign in stress. A good diet can help, especially one rich in the omega-3 fatty acids that counteract the chemicals that stress releases into the bloodstream. Even getting up and taking regular breaks from work will, over the course of the day, dial things back.

Don’t stress out about it — but remember that stress isn’t your friend and taking steps to mitigate it makes sense.