Smoking and its adverse effects on hearing

February 15, 2011 by Francis Turgeon
Smoking and its adverse effects on hearingSmoking has devastating effects on health. The nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive, creating a dependency that is very difficult to kick.

The negative consequences of smoking on health are well known. In addition to an increased risk of lung and oral cancer, smoking is associated with a high risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, etc.) and a greater risk of suffering from respiratory infection.

The adverse effects of smoking have long been documented. In medical literature dating back to the end of the 19th century, authors were already reporting hearing loss among tobacco users. However, it is recent studies that have provided specific data on the issue.

According to these studies, tobacco increases the risk of hearing loss by 70%. The risk and extent of this loss increase with the number of cigarettes smoked and the duration of exposure to tobacco smoke. High-pitched sounds are the most affected. However, little is known about the mechanism of action of this hearing loss. It has been suggested that nicotine reduces oxygen supply to the auditory organs, which causes damage to the specialized hearing cells. Another possible cause is that nicotine inhibits the flow of information between the ear and the brain, leading to a poorer interpretation of sound.

Exposure to noise and advanced age are also factors that influence hearing. For example, a plant worker exposed to high levels of noise will have a greater risk of hearing loss upon retirement than someone who works in an office where noise levels are lower.

Tobacco is hazardous not only to the smokers but also to those around them. In fact, exposure to second-hand smoke entails the inhalation of 4,000 chemicals contained in cigarettes. Of note is that a child whose parents smoke is twice as likely to develop ear infections in early childhood.

All told, smoking is a bad habit. People who quit smoking protect their hearing ability as well as their general health. Several methods can aid in smoking cessation. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

– “Tobacco: Its Physical, Mental, Moral and Social Influences”, Rev. B.W. Chase, (1878), pp. 43-44.
– Nakanishi, Noriyuki MD. “Cigarette Smoking and Risk for Hearing Impairment: A Longitudinal Study in Japanese Male Office Workers”, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 42,11 (November 2000), pp. 1045-1049.
– “Cigarette Smoking and Hearing Loss — The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study”, Journal of the American Medical Association, 279 (June 1998).
– Fransen, E. “Smoking Reduces Blood Flow, Threatens Hearing”, Journal of the Association for Research into Otolaryngology (June 2008).