Hearing Loss Has Been Linked To Smoking

cigaretteWe are all about preserving an individual’s hearing, as well as treating hearing loss  or a hearing impairment if it occurs, but what about preventing it before it ever becomes a problem?  Of course our hearing can diminish as we get older, and our environment can be a huge contributing factor, but recently a study was conducted which conclusively determined that smoking is also directly linked to hearing loss.

The study, led by Dr. Piers Dawes from the University of Manchester in the UK, concluded that smokers were 15.1% more likely to develop hearing loss when compared to passive smokers and non-smokers.  Interestingly, passive smokers were 28% more likely to develop hearing loss than non-smokers.  Dr. Dawes said that “we are not sure if toxins in tobacco smoke affect hearing directly, or whether smoking-related cardiovascular disease causes microvascular changes that impact hearing, or both.”

Research also suggests that there may be a few other reasons why smoking leads to hearing loss.  First, there is the condition of hypoxia, or lack of oxygen.  We know that nicotine and carbon monoxide deplete oxygen levels in the body which can cause tissue damage; the cochlea is not immune to this type of tissue damage and when it occurs, and hearing loss can be the result.

Another problem with nicotine is that it can interfere with the neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve.  Since neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers to the brain, if they become damaged or blocked by the nicotine, they would not be able to communicate effectively to the brain what is occurring along the auditory nerve, thus resulting in hearing loss.

Adolescent smoking has also been attributed to smoking related hearing loss.  The mechanisms of the auditory nerve continue to develop well into adolescence, which make them extremely susceptible to damage.  If the nerve pathways are exposed to environmental toxins such as nicotine, they may not develop properly which could then lead to some form of hearing impairment.

We stress so often about the dangers of noise induced hearing loss,  and ways to prevent it, but we cannot forget about this new threat to our hearing.  According to the CDC, smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, and our ears are not immune to its destructive properties.  There are approximately 42 million Americans who continue to smoke, or about 18%, and that number increases to nearly 60% in other countries.  We need to continue bringing awareness to the harmful effects of smoking, our lives are precious – and so is our hearing!



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