Current & Former Smokers May Be at Higher Risk for Hearing Loss

Current & Former Smokers May Be at Higher Risk for Hearing Loss

It is always a good time to quit smoking once and for all. We know that smoking can increase the risk of lung disease, cancer, asthma, stroke, heart attack and more. However, recent studies have found that smoking also increases the risk of hearing loss. While hearing loss may not seem as terminal of a condition as some of those previously listed, it is important to understand how the entire body’s health is connected. Not only is hearing loss irreversible, but left unaddressed, it can have very damaging effects on your health and quality of life.

The Impact of Hearing Loss

One in eight people 12-69 have hearing loss in the United States—a figure which turns the conception that hearing loss only affects older adults upside down. In truth only one third of people with hearing loss are 65 and older, meaning that for many, they can expect years of navigating hearing loss ahead of them. Undiagnosed and unaddressed hearing loss can impact the quality of relationships at home, with friends and in the workplace. It can cause chronic depression, social anxiety, loneliness, and cause people to self-isolate. In addition, hearing loss can affect cognitive function, increasing the risk of dementia earlier in life, as well as an increased risk of accidents, decreasing people’s mobility and activity level.

A Recent Study on Smoking

Hearing loss is commonly underestimated for its dangerous effects on your health. In a 2018 Japanese study, researchers collected data from over 50,000 people aged 20 to 64. They measured hearing levels at the beginning and the end of the study and cross-referenced this with self-reported smoking habits. For participants who reported smoking up to 10 cigarettes daily, the researchers identified a 40% increased risk of developing hearing loss in comparison to non-smokers. Meanwhile, participants who smoked 11 to 20 cigarettes per day were found to suffer a 60% higher chance of hearing loss. As for those who exceeded a pack a day (20 plus cigarettes) there was a 70% higher risk of developing hearing loss! 

2020 Study on Smoking

A more recent 2020 study titled “Cigarette Smoking, Smoking Cessation, and Risk of Hearing Loss in Women”, published in the American Journal of Medicine examined more than five thousand participants who experienced who developed hearing loss during the study. In comparison to nonsmokers, those who smoked cigarettes were determined to have a 60% increased risk of high-frequency hearing loss. The study showed that while current smokers were found to have the highest risk of hearing loss, participants who had previously smoked in the past displayed a notably higher risk of hearing loss than those who had never smoked at all. The good news was that even for former smokers, within ten years, the risk factors for hearing loss connected to hearing loss did not suffer an increased risk at all! This is just one more motivating factor for those of us on a journey to quitting once and for all.

The Impact of Smoking on Our Hearing

Studies show that smoking increases our risk of hearing loss, but how exactly does it occur? To better understand the impact of smoking, it is important to understand how we hear. Hearing starts with the ears, but the process is completed in the brain. The ears send sound to the brain via tiny hairlike cells called stereocilia. These cells rely on constant and ample oxygenated blood flow to maintain health. When this is depleted, it can put the stereocilia at a greater risk for damage causing permanent hearing loss.

Tobacco, nicotine, and carbon monoxide all present chemicals that we introduce to our body when we smoke are considered ototoxic chemicals. Ototoxic chemicals are those that can damage our inner ear, inhibiting delivery of sound from our ears to our brain. These ototoxic chemicals constrict blood vessels, decreasing levels of oxygenated blood from reaching the cells throughout the body, including our ears!

Invest in Better Hearing Today

If you’ve been looking for one more reason to quit, this could be it! In the meantime, we recommend testing your hearing to determine if a hearing loss is present. Contact us to schedule your next hearing exam with us today!