Two of the biggest risk factors for hearing loss are old age and noise exposure. Another lesser-known risk factor is smoking cigarettes. We review the link between smoking, secondhand smoke and hearing loss below.
What Does the Research Show?
There is a plethora of research on the link between smoking, secondhand smoke and hearing loss:
- A 2018 study of 50,000 Japanese workers uncovered that people who smoke are 60% more likely to develop hearing loss in the higher frequencies compared to people who don’t smoke.
- A 2011 study on secondhand smoke found that teenagers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are two to three times more likely to develop hearing loss than those with little to no exposure.
- An older study from 1998 published in JAMA found that nonsmokers who live with smokers are twice as likely to develop hearing loss than those who aren’t exposed to secondhand smoke.
- A review of 20 studies published in 2018 found sufficient evidence to conclude that smoking is associated with tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
How Does Smoking Affect Hearing?
Cigarettes contain nicotine and carbon monoxide, both of which lower blood oxygen levels and constrict blood vessels throughout the body, including within the inner ear. This can damage the stereocilia, which are the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that convert soundwaves into electrical energy the brain interprets as sound.
Additionally, nicotine and cigarette smoke can:
- Interfere with the neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve.
- Irritate the lining of the middle ear and the Eustachian tubes.
- Release free radicals that cause disease.
- Sensitize you to loud noises like a strike at TechCity Bowl and make you more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss.
What Are the Benefits of Quitting Smoking?
You can experience many benefits if you quit smoking. Many start to take effect right away. According to the American Lung Association, 20 minutes after smoking your last cigarette, your blood pressure and circulation improve; within eight hours, your carbon monoxide and oxygen levels return to normal; within two days, your sense of taste and smell improve and your nerve endings start to regenerate.
Quitting smoking can’t reverse the damage that’s already been done, but it can prevent future damage to your hearing.
For more information about the benefits of quitting smoking or to schedule a hearing evaluation, call Hearing Advancement Center today.