Cigarette Smoking and Hearing Loss

Each year the American Cancer Society sponsors the Great American Smokeout, which takes place this year on November 19. The event challenges people to stop smoking cigarettes for 24 hours, hoping their decision not to smoke will last forever. It is important to note that health professionals have known the dangers of smoking for decades. Smoking cigarettes contributes to lung and throat cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, allergies, and decreased healing abilities. Yet with all the solid statistical data in place, one out of every five Americans is still smoking regularly. Use #GreatAmericanSmokeout on social media to post your commitment to spending 24 hours smoke-free.

Smoking and hearing loss study

“Cigarette Smoking and Hearing Loss: The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, evaluated the association between cigarette smoking and hearing loss in a large population. The study revealed that people who smoke are almost twice as likely as nonsmokers to develop hearing loss. Also, those nonsmoking participants who lived with a smoker were more likely to have a hearing loss than those who were not exposed.

These results are consistent with early clinical studies reporting worse hearing in smokers compared to nonsmokers; animal studies showing cochlear damage after exposure to cigarette smoke; and population-based, self-reported data. Cigarette smoking may have direct ototoxic effects on hair cell function and an effect on the transmission of those hearing signals.

This data, along with several other studies, has tied smoking to increased risk of hearing loss in humans. Nicotine and carbon monoxide may actually deplete oxygen levels in the cochlea (the auditory portion of the inner ear), which is bathed in fluids and blood supply. Like any part of the body, if oxygen is depleted, tissue damage can occur.

Smokers should have their hearing tested

Hearing loss has often been thought of as an inevitable consequence of aging; however, research shows this is not always the case. If you do smoke, consider having your hearing evaluated to see if there has been any damage. By quitting for even one day during the Great American Smokeout, smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier, tobacco-free life — a step that can lead to reducing cancer risks and lessening the potential effects of hearing loss in everyday life.

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