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

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

In Hearing Loss by Zach Kenealey, HIS

Zach Kenealey, HIS

Smoking is a well-known risk factor for a range of health issues, including lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems. However, recent studies have also revealed a concerning link between smoking and hearing loss.

The following is a description of one of the physiological impacts that smoking has.

The eustachian tube extends from the middle ear to the rear of the throat, serving to balance the pressure within the ears and facilitate the drainage of mucus produced by the lining of the middle ear. Smoking contributes to complications, including potential obstructions, in the eustachian tube, leading to the accumulation of pressure and resulting in diminished hearing abilities.

Increased risk of hearing loss among smokers

  • Research studies have consistently demonstrated a higher prevalence of hearing loss among smokers compared to non-smokers.
  • According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), smokers are 1.69 times more likely to develop hearing loss than non-smokers.
  • The harmful chemicals in cigarettes, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide, can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear, leading to hearing problems.

Impact on current smokers

  • The risk of hearing loss is dose-dependent, meaning that the more cigarettes a person smokes and the longer they smoke, the higher the risk of developing hearing problems.
  • A study conducted by the University of Manchester found that smokers who consume more than 10 cigarettes per day have a 60% higher risk of hearing loss compared to non-smokers.
  • The toxins in cigarettes can damage the cochlea, impair blood flow to the inner ear, and cause oxidative stress, all of which contribute to hearing loss.

Influence on former smokers

  • While quitting smoking is a positive step for overall health, it may not completely eliminate the risk of hearing loss.
  • A study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research found that former smokers still had a 15% higher risk of hearing loss compared to those who never smoked.
  • The damage caused by smoking may be irreversible, and even after quitting, the residual effects can continue to impact hearing health.

Impact on different age groups

  • Smoking has been shown to have a more pronounced effect on hearing loss in younger individuals compared to older populations.
  • Young smokers are more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss, which can be exacerbated by smoking.
  • The combination of smoking and exposure to loud noise, such as in nightclubs or concerts, significantly increases the risk of hearing damage.

Effect on specific frequencies

  • Studies have found that smoking is particularly associated with a decline in high-frequency hearing.
  • High-frequency hearing loss can lead to difficulties in understanding speech, especially in noisy environments.
  • Smokers may experience challenges in conversations, increased reliance on subtitles, and reduced enjoyment of music.

Preventive measures

  • Address your smoking addiction to your primary care physician and start gearing up towards a quit date. They will also help you with nicotine patches and other strategies to get on to a smoke free path.
  • Regular hearing check-ups and early detection of hearing loss can lead to appropriate interventions and better management of the condition.
  • Stay away from second hand smoke and other smokers to mitigate relapses and an unwanted exposure.

Focus forward

  • Start a small workout regimen so that you are not overwhelmed. 
  • Stay away from stressors whether it be people, places or things. 
  • Keep a daily journal of your mood and diet to recognize patterns and triggers.

Remember that there will be many challenges no matter how well prepared you are. Relapses are common but they are not the end of the journey.

Protect your hearing and overall health by making informed choices. 

If you are a current smoker, consider quitting, and if you are a former smoker, prioritize regular hearing check-ups.

Smoking is a mental, physical and social addiction. Some people have even had to have to change their social circles to accommodate and prioritize their health

It’s very different for everyone but it is no small feat to overcome a debilitating addiction.

Do you need support? Would you like some resources to get you started in a new direction on your wellness program? We are only a phone call away and ready to help!