You probably already know about the two most common risk factors for hearing loss: aging and noise exposure. Did you also know that, in addition to being linked to cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, smoking can also lead to hearing loss? We explore this link below.
Studies Linking Smoking & Hearing Loss
There’s a growing body of evidence that smoking and hearing loss are linked:
- One study published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research in 2019 found that smokers are 60% more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss than nonsmokers.
- Another study published in Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery in 2014 uncovered that teens exposed to cigarette smoke are two to three times more likely to develop hearing loss compared to those with little or no exposure.
- An older study published in JAMA in 1998 found that nonsmokers living with smokers were twice as likely to develop hearing loss compared to those who were not exposed at all.
- According to the CDC, exposure to secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in children, including ear infections, which can lead to conductive hearing loss.
- A review of 20 studies found sufficient evidence that smoking is associated with tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
How Smoking Affects Your Ears
The nicotine and carbon monoxide found in your cigarettes lower blood oxygen levels and constrict blood vessels throughout the body, including in your ears. This can damage the stereocilia, which are tiny hair cells that convert soundwaves into electrical energy that your brain interprets as sound.
Also, 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 Stuart Bowl and make you more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss.
The Benefits of Quitting
Fortunately, many of the benefits of quitting smoking begin to take effect right away. According to the American Lung Association:
- 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and circulation improve.
- 8 hours after your last cigarette, your carbon monoxide and oxygen levels return to normal.
- 48 hours after your last cigarette, your sense of smell and taste improve and your nerve endings begin to regenerate.
Resources for Quitting
Visit smokefree.gov for tips on creating a plan to quit smoking, and check out the American Lung Association’s online Freedom from Smoking program that teaches you skills and techniques to quit for good. For more information or to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, call The Hear Care Center today.