It’s well accepted that smoking has several negative health consequences. But can smoking increase the risks of hearing loss? The evidence so far is a very clear “YES.” Even if you don’t smoke you need to be cautious, especially if you are pregnant. Inhaling second hand smoke can also put your hearing at risk.
This news report cited findings from a study of 50,000 Japanese workers. It found that smokers were 60% more likely to develop high frequency hearing loss. Although there was a stronger connection with this type of hearing loss, they found the risks for both high and low frequency hearing loss increased as smoking patterns increased.
A JAMA study found that a non-smoker living with a smoker is at twice the risk of developing a hearing loss than someone not exposed to smoking.
Another study focused on the risks for teens living in a household with a smoker and found that they too are at 2-3 times the risk of developing hearing loss. Concerningly due to the gradual nature of hearing loss, 80% of those who took part in that study had been unaware that their hearing had been impacted.
How Smoking Affects Hearing
The nicotine and carbon monoxide that is inhaled from cigarettes or second hand smoke causes many physiological reactions that have negative impacts on hearing health. These include:
- Constriction of blood vessels all over the body and reduction of the oxygen content of blood. This leads to damage of the essential hair cells of the inner ear.
- 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.
- Become more sensitive to loud noises and susceptible to noise induced hearing loss.
- Cases of tinnitus are higher in smokers suggesting that you may also be at higher risk of developing the condition.
- Because smoking weakens the immune system and damages the tissues of the ear, nose and throat it leaves you and especially any children living with you more susceptible to ear infections.
The increased risk of hearing loss among smokers has been shown to reduce 5 years after quitting. The American Lung Association even provide details of how quickly your body repairs the damage done by your last cigarette. Bear in mind, while you cannot reverse sensorineural hearing loss, by quitting you can prevent any further smoking related hearing loss. Smokefree and Freedom From Smoking are excellent resources to help you on your journey.
We are Here to Help!
If anyone in your family is or has been a smoker, it’s worth booking yourselves in for a hearing check as soon as possible. At Family Audiology we have a patient centered approach and are dedicated to improving your quality of life through better hearing. Call 607-323-4061 to discuss your concerns or book a consultation here.