Researchers have known the dangers of smoking tobacco for decades. Of course we know smoking cigarettes contributes to lung cancer, throat cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart ailments, allergies and other breathing disorders. Yet, with all the solid, statistical data in place, one out of five Americans still puff away daily.
A published report on AudiologyOnline from Western Michigan University, authored by Dr. Bharti Katbamna, indicates a strong link between smoking and hearing loss – yet another reason to kick the habit.
While the number of teens who start smoking is actually down to approximately 10% according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), within the overall population that number jumps to 20% – one in five. Chances are you’re a smoker or you know one – even the secret smoker who never smokes in public but still consumes 10 or more cigarettes a day, putting you (or your friend) at higher risk for a host of diseases and harmful conditions.
With each draw on a cigarette you inhale a variety of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene, arsenic, vinyl chloride, ammonia and hydrogen cyanide among about 1 thousand other substances.
Several studies have also demonstrated the dangers of second-hand smoke. A chemical called cotinine, when it appears in a non-smoker, is a clear indication of exposure to second-hand smoke. So, as you enjoy a smoke to calm your nerves, consider the damage you’re doing to your own body and to those loved ones around you.
Scientists have recognized the danger smoking presents to hearing for almost 40 years, though this danger hasn’t been studied to the extent other tobacco-related health risks have. Dr. Katbamna’s report indicates two distinct dangers to hearing associated with smoking. Studies reveal that the dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke affect can affect both the conductive mechanism in hearing (the middle ear vibrations) as well as the inner ear part of the hearing (the hair cells).
The affect smoking has on hearing appears to be correlated with the amount of cigarettes smoked. In a study conducted on Japanese office workers who smoke, the research showed “that as the number of cigarettes smoked per day and pack years of smoking increased, the risk for high-frequency hearing loss increased in a dose dependent manner…”
In other words, the more people smoked each day and the longer they smoked, the worse the hearing damage was – especially in the high frequency range – the high-pitched sounds like birds tweeting.
Like anything in life, smoking can act “synergistically” with other hearing loss risk factors. For example, according to Dr. Katbamna a 2005 study “showed that smoking, age, and noise exposure together pose a greater risk for hearing loss than each factor alone. They showed that non-exposed nonsmokers in the 20-40 years age category were least likely to experience hearing loss, whereas smokers over 40 years with a history of noise exposure were most likely to show a hearing loss. They suggested that these synergistic effects were most consistent with biological interactions.”
In plain English, when you factor in smoking with hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise and the age factor, well, you have a potent combination that may well lead to serious and irreversible hearing loss.
If you do smoke, quit and consider having your hearing tested to see if you have caused any damage to your hearing.
And if you’re an ex-smoker you deserve a pat on the back. You’ve done something very difficult for your own good health and for the health of those who live with you. However you may also want to consider having your hearing tested as damage may have already occurred.
If you don’t smoke please don’t start.