Hearing Loss and Smoking: What’s the Connection?

By November 18, 2014Did You Know?

smoker_thSMOKERS ARE MORE LIKELY TO SUFFER FROM HEARING LOSS, ACCORDING TO A RECENT STUDY FROM MANCHESTER UNIVERSITY. THE STUDY SHOWED THAT REGULAR EXPOSURE TO TOBACCO SMOKE CAN INCREASE THE RISK OF HEARING LOSS – AND THAT THE MORE YOU SMOKE, THE MORE LIKELY YOU ARE TO DEVELOP A PROBLEM.

The study, which looked at 164,770 adults in the United Kingdom, concluded that smokers have a 15.1% higher chance of having hearing loss than non-smokers. Even passive exposure to tobacco smoke is bad for your ears. Those who were exposed to tobacco smoke for more than 10 hours per week were found to have a 40% increased risk of hearing loss.

WHAT’S THE CONNECTION?

It’s obvious how smoking can have detrimental effects on your lungs and throat, but the connection between smoking and your ears is more complex. A lead researcher on the study, Piers Dawes, says that the most likely reason that smoking and hearing loss are related is that smoking causes cardiovascular disease. Toxins in tobacco smoke also cause hypoxia of tissues and organs, and damages vascular structures.

Dawes says it was interesting to see how strong the risk was for smokers. The study looked at other covariates including ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, noise exposure, and use of ototoxic drugs (those harmful to hearing) – and even after all those and more were taken into account, smoking was still linked with hearing loss. The results are similar to those of studies done in several other countries.

“The link is real and reliable,” says Dawes. “And the good news is that ex-smokers were at no extra risk of hearing loss. Quitting smoking is likely to be hugely beneficial in protecting against hearing loss.”

NEXT STEPS TOWARD HEALTH HEARING

Dawes says that the next step is to examine how other lifestyle risks affect hearing loss. His team is currently looking at how diet, exercise, and pre-natal exposures may make people more or less susceptible to hearing loss. This will allow scientists to make recommendations about how to lead a healthy lifestyle and ensure good hearing in old age.

“As we are all living longer, it’s becoming more and more important to ensure good quality of life in old age, rather than just increased longevity,” he says. “Retaining good hearing is of key importance to good quality of life in old age.”

STOP SMOKING, START HEARING

It isn’t too late to prevent hearing loss if you are a smoker. Ex-smokers showed no extra risk of hearing loss. According to Dawes, quitting smoking can be “hugely beneficial” for protecting against hearing loss.

Smoking is one of many factors that have shown to increase the risk of hearing loss. Other factors include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Noise exposure
  • Aging
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Pain relievers
  • Sleep apnea
Adapted from Widex Listen Now, September 12, 2014