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Does Smoking Increase the Risk of Hearing Loss?

Does Smoking Increase the Risk of Hearing Loss? - Hearing, Balance and Speech Center

Smoking cigarettes is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Smoking affects almost every organ in your body, can cause diseases, and has negative implications on the overall health of a smoker in general.

The danger that smoking poses on your heart and lungs is generally well accepted. What many people are not aware of, however, is that smoking can impact your hearing. In our blog today, we look at how smoking can increase the risk of hearing loss.

The Research

Last year, Reuters published the findings of a study highlighting that smokers were 60% more likely to develop high frequency hearing loss than non-smokers. The study further outlined that the risks increased with each additional cigarette a smoker has on a typical day.

The study looked at over 50,000 participants. Over an 8 year period, the study collected data from annual health checkups. In addition, participants were asked to complete a health-related lifestyle questionnaire.

Researchers looked at the effect that someone’s smoking status had: as in, were they current or former smokers, or someone who had never smoked. They assessed the number of cigarettes smoked on an average day, and adjusted for variables such as exposure to high noise in a working environment, for example.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Huanhuan Hu of Japan's National Center for Global Health, said, "With a large sample size, long follow-up period, and objective assessment of hearing loss, our study provides strong evidence that smoking is an independent risk factor of hearing loss. These results provide strong evidence to support that smoking is a causal factor for hearing loss and emphasize the need for tobacco control to prevent or delay the development of hearing loss."

The study also outlined that risks of hearing loss decreased within 5 years of quitting smoking.

Unfortunately, it’s not only smokers who are at risk of hearing loss. This JAMA study found that a non-smoker living with a smoker is twice as likely to develop hearing loss than someone not exposed to smoking. Another study focused on the risks posed to teenagers who live with a smoker. It found that their risk of developing hearing loss is 2-3 times more likely.

How Does Smoking Affect Your Hearing?

The carbon monoxide and nicotine that is inhaled from cigarettes or second hand smoke can cause physiological reactions that in turn have a negative impact on hearing health. These include:

  • Blood vessels constricting, and a reduction in the blood’s oxygen content. This can lead to the essential hair cells of the inner ear being damaged.
  • Irritation of the eustachian tube and lining of the middle ear.
  • Triggers the release of free radicals (these can damage DNA and cause disease)
  • Interference of the function of the auditory nerve which is involved in transmitting sounds for the brain to interpret.
  • More sensitivity to loud noises. Higher susceptibility to noise induced hearing loss.
  • Smoking weakens the immune system. As it can also damage the tissues in your ear, nose and throat, it can leave you more susceptible to ear infections.

If you are a smoker, the most important step you can take to help protect your hearing and your health is to quit. Your body is incredible at repairing damage; just have a look at this information from the American Lung Association to see how quickly quitting smoking can have positive health benefits. If you need help quitting, check out Smoke-Free and Freedom from Smoking.

Given that it can sometimes take time to notice a hearing loss, if you’re a smoker, we recommend booking yourself in for a hearing assessment. Get in touch with the hearing specialists at Hearing Balance & Speech Center, call us on 1-800-HEAR-IT-1. Alternatively, click here to request an appointment online.

Research / Sources

  1. https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/50940-Smoking-and-hearing-loss
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180314092317.htm
  3. https://www.hear-it.org/Cigarette-smoking-and-hearing-loss