Smoking And Hearing Loss: Is There A Connection?
There is little debate that smoking carries many associated health risks, particularly with regard to heart and lung disease. However, evidence now suggests that smoking may also bring on hearing loss. Recent studies suggest that smokers are nearly 70 percent more likely to develop some sort of hearing loss later in life than non-smokers.
Combine smoking with exposure to loud noise and your risk for significant hearing loss skyrockets. Additionally, the longer you smoke, the more at-risk you are to develop hearing loss not to mention any other more complicated and harmful problems.
The Loss of Blood Circulation
The association of smoking and hearing loss may, at first glance, seem far-fetched. How can smoking affect how you hear? While the exact relationship remains murky, most experts posit that smoking affects circulation and, therefore, the resulting reduced blood flow affects the inner ear, with consequent damage to the hair cells responsible for hearing. Damage to these cells decreases the ability to hear. Even more alarming is the evidence to suggest that when pregnant mothers smoke, the reduction of oxygen can cause irreversible damage to a developing child’s ears.
Ototoxicity & Cotinine
In addition to the circulatory issues, there are other risks. For example, nicotine, the drug found in tobacco, has the capacity to affect the messengers in the auditory nerve. This can result in sounds being misinterpreted or misunderstood. This problem is often referred to as ototoxicity. In addition to the harmful chemicals smokers inhale; there are issues with secondhand smoke as well. The chemical cotinine, present in many cigarettes, increases the risk of middle ear problems even among people who are not directly smoking!
Published Medical Studies
In recent years, a range of medical studies published in publications such as the Journal of the American Medical Association have offered evidence that smoking tobacco can put smokers at a higher risk of hearing impairment later in life. While smoking has always been associated with serious health issues, these new findings provide further evidence that smoking is bad for the body in more ways than one and in some rather inconspicuous ways like hearing loss or lung cancer.
Start with the Practical Steps to Success
Hearing loss often occurs with age and with exposure to loud noises. The new research on smoking suggests that quitting smoking and while still protecting your ears from loud noise are two practical steps than any individual can and is able to take today in order to prevent hearing loss later in life along with other serious health complications.
Additionally, quitting smoking provides many other health benefits. The sooner a person quits, the better the chance for improved health and quality of life over the long run. A good first step is to get a hearing test to determine what kind of damage may exist. The next step is to work with your doctor to develop and implement a smoking cessation program that will help you and those around you enjoy a healthy life, full of good health and hearing!
Daniel Shaw is a senior health advisor at a senior housing community. Daniel advises many of the seniors on the issues of healthy eating, exercise, and on issues as common as hearing loss.