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Martin Smith

17th August 2016

Smoking and Hearing Loss, A Connection


15% higher risk of hearing loss for smokers

Cigarette smoke

Smokers and passive smokers are more likely to suffer from hearing loss. Current smokers have a 15% higher risk of hearing loss than non-smokers according to research undertaken in Centre of Human Communication and Deafness at The University of Manchester.

Deadly Chemicals

By now, I think you would have to be hiding under a rock to not know that smoking is really bad for your health. However, this is the first time it has been linked to hearing loss. Researchers analyzed data from 164,770 UK adults aged 40-69 who took hearing tests between 2007 and 2010. The study found that current smokers have a 15.1% higher risk of hearing loss than non-smokers.

It is estimated that more than 480,000 people die each year from smoking-related problems. As is the case with many smoking dangers, the risk of hearing damage also appears to extend to those exposed to secondhand smoke.

Most cigarettes are a cocktail of pretty frightening chemicals, many of which are known to be ototoxic (damaging to the inner ear). When you smoke, you flood your blood stream with these chemicals.

Damaging Nerve Endings

The nerve endings in your inner ear responsible for sending sound info to the brain are very delicate. Like other nerve endings in the body, they need a good flow of oxygenated blood. As ototoxicity destroys them your ability to hear is diminished. Those chemicals in tobacco products include the following:

  • Ammonia
  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nicotine
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hydrogen cyanide

All of these chemicals are poisons, if you were handling them in a lab, you would have to take strict precautions. Smokers inhale them several times a day by choice. Despite the study results, the mechanism of the link between smoking and hearing loss is still unclear.

It remains unclear if the toxins in tobacco smoke affect hearing directly, or if smoking-related cardiovascular disease causes vascular changes that impact hearing. There is a real possibility it may actually be both.

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