The possible link between cigarette smoking and hearing loss

cigarette smoke

The possible link between cigarette smoking and hearing loss

A recent study of more than 50,000 adults in Japan published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research revealed that smoking cigarettes may raise the risk of hearing loss. The more you smoke, the higher your risk.

This study, which is the largest conducted to date on the potential link between smoking and hearing loss, relied on actual hearing test data rather than self-reported hearing loss, which was a factor which had dogged many previous studies.

A previous study done in the late '90s on a group of around 3,000 persons at a time had indicated that smokers were nearly 70 percent more likely than non-smokers to suffer hearing loss, and that the risk of hearing impairment increased with the number of cigarettes smoked. In many cases, study subjects' hearing problems increased proportionately with exposure to cigarette smoke. The study concluded that smokers were 1.69 times more likely to have hearing loss. Heavy smokers were more than 1.30 times as likely to have a hearing loss in all age groups but the oldest, and non-smokers living with someone who smoked regularly were found to be 1.94 times more likely to suffer from hearing loss than those who did not reside in the same house as a smoker.

A 2013 study on prenatal exposure to nicotine concluded that prenatal smoke exposure was independently associated with nearly a 3-fold increase in the odds of unilateral low-frequency hearing loss among adolescents, suggesting that in-utero exposure to tobacco smoke could cause significant hearing loss early in life.

The research team followed 50,195 adults with no hearing loss for up to eight years. Non-smokers developed high frequency hearing loss at a ratio of approximately 8 persons per thousand. However, that number was almost double for smokers, who developed that type of hearing loss at a ratio of 15 people out of every thousand. Additionally, the study showed that the higher the daily cigarette consumption, the more likely the individual was to experience hearing loss. However, workplace noise was not taken into account, and most participants in the study were men. No clear reason was found as to why smoking would cause hearing loss, so the matter remains one of correlation, rather than proven causation.

That said, the researchers did report that among study subjects who quit smoking, increased risk dropped significantly within five years of quitting. Since smoking can increase risk of ear infections, and repeated ear infections are linked to eventual hearing loss, this may be the connection between smoking and hearing loss. Stopping smoking provides multiple health benefits and reducing the chances of hearing loss is just one of many. Other ways to reduce your risk for hearing loss include wearing noise protectors when working with power tools and turning down music when using headphones or earbuds.

For those with hearing loss, a variety of hearing aids exist which can be fitted and customized to address specific ranges of hearing loss and restore hearing.

A recent study of more than 50,000 adults in Japan published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research revealed that smoking cigarettes may raise the risk of hearing loss.