It is common knowledge that tobacco consumption puts our health at risk and that smoking damages our bodies and is the leading cause of a number of diseases, but  did you know that smoking can also affect your hearing?

The link between smoking and hearing loss

Several studies have linked smoking with hearing loss, revealing that tobacco smoke decreases blood flow. The subsequent reduction in oxygen reaching the inner ear can causes damage and affect our hearing.

The link between smoking and hearing loss

Moreover, the American Cancer Society warns of the danger of exposure to tobacco smoke, which is responsible for more than 750,000 middle ear infections in the United States alone. In addition to this risk, smoking is also listed as a risk factor for tinnitus.

Smokers are 60% more likely to suffer hearing issues

The latest study on the effects of tobacco and the increased likelihood of hearing loss was published in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research journal in 2018. 

Smokers are 60% more likely to suffer hearing issues

For the research, a mix of 50,195 smokers and non-smokers between the ages of 20-64 with no reported hearing issues were followed for 8 years. They underwent regular health tests and screening, which included hearing tests and in-depth questions on their lifestyle. Over the 8 years that the study lasted, 3,532 participants began to suffer high-frequency hearing loss, while 1,575 developed low-frequency hearing loss. Researchers concluded that smokers have a 60% greater likelihood of suffering hearing loss.

Hearing issues increase in direct proportion to tobacco consumption

If we analyse precious research, we find that a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 revealed that smokers had a 70% greater risk of suffering hearing loss than non-smokers.

An article on the Hear-it website details the study, in which 3,573 participants aged between 48 and 92 years of age where divided into three groups: smokers, ex-smokers and non-smokers. According to the study, 25.9% of smokers between 48-59 suffered hearing loss compared to only 16.1% of non-smokers. In the case of ex-smokers, hearing loss rates stood at 22.7%. This trend was mirrored in the older age group.

The study concluded that the risk of suffering hearing issues increased in direct proportion to the intensity and duration of exposure to tobacco smoke. What’s more, it also revealed that passive smokers were 1.94 times more likely to suffer from hearing problems than non-smokers who did not live with smokers.

How tobacco smoke affects young people

Other researchers studied the effect of exposure to tobacco smoke on younger people. This study published in Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery in 2013 centred on the risk factors for sensorineural hearing loss. 964 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 took part in the research, which analysed their family medical history and exposure to tobacco smoke.

How tobacco smoke affects young people

All participants underwent tests to check their hearing and blood cotinine levels. When comparing passive smokers with non-smokers, the data gathered showed that adolescents regularly exposed to cigarette smoke had higher levels of hearing loss at both high and low frequencies.

As had happened in the research carried out in 1998, the information gathered in this study also proved that the greater the exposure to cigarette smoke, the greater the level of hearing loss. It also showed that this hearing loss in young passive smokers exposed to the smoke of adult smokers could lead to them being more easily distracted at school and experiencing greater learning difficulties.

Another reason to quit smoking

We have known for years that tobacco does not only affect smokers, but also impacts on the lives of the people around them, known as passive smokers. Exposure to cigarette smoke also causes many of them to suffer the health issues associated with smoking.

While many policies and cessation services designed to control nicotine and tobacco addiction have been implemented throughout the world in recent years, the WHO states in its Report on the global tobacco epidemic published in 2019 that they must be stepped up.

Now that you know that hearing loss is yet another health issue caused by smoking, are you going to try to quit?

You can do it! With specialist help and willpower, you can improve your (hearing) health and that of everyone around you.

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