Cigarettes are like little sticks of dynamite – deadly when you light them. There are just too many proven health risks to argue any other way, and new research adds another hazard to that long list: hearing loss.
The Link Between Cigarette Smoking & Hearing
About one in five people suffer from impaired hearing in La Verne. Aging and noise exposure are the biggest risk factors, but there is another one that is completely preventable – smoking. Studies have repeatedly shown that exposure to cigarette smoke has a profound effect on your hearing health, whether directly, secondhand or in utero.
A 2018 study by Reuters News found that smokers were 60 percent more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss. This was just the latest in a series of studies showing similar conclusions. Worse, the increased risk doesn’t just apply to those who actually light up; non-smokers who live with somebody who smokes are twice as likely to develop hearing loss per a JAMA study. Teens exposed to cigarette smoke have a 2-3x higher risk of developing hearing loss versus their non-smoking peers.
Smoking has also been linked to tinnitus, dizziness and vertigo through multiple studies. It also weakens the immune system and damages nose and throat tissues, making you more susceptible to ear infections. The risk is even higher for children exposed to secondhand smoke given their ear anatomy, which already makes them prone to frequent infections. They are also more likely to suffer from more frequent and severe asthma attacks and respiratory infections. Children born to mothers who smoked while pregnant have a higher risk of developing hearing loss – even into their teens.
So, how does smoking affect your hearing? The answer has to do with two compounds found in cigarettes – nicotine and carbon monoxide. Both lower oxygen blood levels and constrict blood vessels throughout the body, including those in your inner ear that keep the hair cells healthy. Nicotine also has the following adverse effects on your body:
- It interferes with neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve that are responsible for helping the brain interpret sounds
- It causes irritation of the Eustachian tube and lining of the middle ear
- It triggers the release of free radicals that can damage DNA and cause disease
- It increases your sensitivity to loud noises, making you more prone to develop noise-induced hearing loss
Quit Now, Benefit Immediately
The sooner you give up cigarettes, the better. You’ll benefit right away, according to the American Lung Association; your blood pressure will drop, and your circulation will improve within 20 minutes of your last cigarette. Carbon monoxide and oxygen levels return to normal in about eight hours, and your sense of smell and taste will improve in a couple of days. And you will experience the following health benefits:
- Reduced risk of lung cancer and other types of cancer
- Lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease,
- Fewer respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath,
- Reduced risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Lower risk for infertility in women
Unfortunately, you can’t reverse hearing loss, but quitting will prevent any additional nicotine-related damage to your hearing. Giving up cigarettes is difficult for many; if you would like tips to help you put an end to this bad habit, reach out to your La Verne audiologist or another physician today!