Smoking Linked to Increased Risk of Hearing Loss

Smoking Linked to Increased Risk of Hearing LossAccording to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 37 million American adults smoke cigarettes on a regular basis.

The harmful effects tobacco can have on the lungs and the heart are widely known. However, new research suggests smoking cigarettes is also linked to hearing loss. The study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research found the risk of developing hearing loss increased the longer a person smoked.

The study followed more than 50,000 adults - a mix of smokers and non-smokers - over the course of eight years. None of the participants showed any signs of hearing loss prior to the study. Each year, the participants were given a yearly health exam which included a hearing test.
During the eight year time span, individuals who smoked cigarettes were 60 percent more likely to develop high frequency hearing loss and 20 percent more likely to develop low frequency hearing loss.

People with high frequency hearing loss generally have trouble hearing sounds that are higher in pitch like consonants s, h or f. Those with low frequency hearing loss have difficulty hearing or telling the difference between sounds that are lower in pitch, such as vowels.

Although the study did not determine the exact cause for the link, researchers believe toxic chemicals found in cigarettes such as nicotine, arsenic and ammonia may be to blame.

These chemicals reduce oxygen levels and restrict blood flow which causes damage to the tiny hair cells of the inner ear and can result in hearing loss. In addition, some of the chemicals found in cigarettes have also been linked to other hearing and balance related issues such as tinnitus, dizziness, and vertigo.

For smokers and non-smokers alike, audiologists recommend having a hearing evaluation at least once a year. However, if you notice any changes in your hearing, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician who can refer you to an audiologist sooner.

To request an appointment with an expert audiologist at the Pennsylvania Ear Institute, please call 215.780.3180.