Cigarette smoke gets in your lungs, your blood stream and your ears putting you at higher risk for any number of costly health conditions – cancer, heart disease, respiratory ailments and now you can add hearing loss to that list.
It’s nothing new - you go into a health care provider and the question is asked: Do you smoke, or have you been a smoker? The fact is cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Smoking is associated with a host of serious and costly health conditions including cancer, heart disease and respiratory ailments.
And now there’s compelling evidence that smoking also takes a toll on your hearing.
A new study of more than 50,000 Japanese workers found that smokers were up to 70% more likely than nonsmokers to develop high-frequency hearing loss, the most common type of hearing loss. In addition, the study concluded that smoking increased the risk of low-frequency hearing loss by up to 40%.
Furthermore, the more cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk of hearing loss, according to researchers. Study participants who smoked up to 10 cigarettes per day were at a 40% higher risk for high-frequency hearing loss; that risk climbed to 70% for those who went through more than 20 cigarettes daily.
“The study showed clearly that there is a direct link between the number of cigarettes and the damage suffered,” stated Dr. Matteo Pezzoli, a hearing specialist in Alba, Italy, who was not involved with the study.
On a positive note, researchers found that the risk of hearing loss dropped significantly within five years of when a person quit smoking.
The research doesn’t explain why smoking damages hearing. However, it’s likely that nicotine and other toxins, including formaldehyde, arsenic, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide, harm the inner ear. Also, smoking causes inflammation and may decrease vital blood flow to the cochlea, part of the inner ear that’s critical to hearing.