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Are you a smoker? You may be used to hearing information on the health risks of smoking, but still struggle to quit. Tobacco is an incredibly addictive substance and despite reasoning, your body just begins to rely on it. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that to quit, “your brain has to get used to not having nicotine around.” The main addictive drug in tobacco is nicotine and cigarettes rapidly deliver nicotine to your brain, releasing chemicals that make you feel good.
However, the more you smoke the higher the risk and alarmingly, you don’t even need to smoke to suffer the damage. If you need one more reason to quit, it’s important to understand that your smoking doesn’t only affect you, but those you are around the most.
The CDC reports that exposure to secondhand smoke- smoke from other smokers can cause “immediate harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels and can cause coronary heart disease and stroke. Secondhand smoke causes nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the United States among adults who do not smoke.” Now studies show that secondhand smoke may also affect hearing!
What is Secondhand Smoke?
Secondhand smoke, or passive smoking occurs when you don’t mean to inhale the fumes but you share the air with people who smoke. Those most affected are partners, roommates, and children of smokers. For those who don’t smoke it is alarming, just how damaging secondhand smoke can be. However, secondhand smoke contains a number of poisonous gasses and chemicals, including hydrogen cyanide -used in chemical weapons, carbon monoxide – present in car exhaust, butane – used in lighter fluid, ammonia – found in household cleaners, and toluene – a chemical present in paint thinners.
Studies on Secondhand Smoke and Hearing Loss
Many of these alarming chemicals in cigarettes are ototoxic, meaning they can be damaging to the tiny hair like cells of the inner ear. While we hear with our ears, sounds must reach the brain for hearing to occur. These ototoxic chemicals in cigarettes constrict blood vessels and inhibit blood flow to the inner ear, where the hair cells are subject to damage and destruction, contributing to lifelong hearing loss.
Several studies link secondhand smoke with damage to hearing:
- A significant study linking the effects of smoking on hearing was published in 2018 by the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Japan. By examining a cohort of 50,195 people between the ages of 20 – 64 who had no hearing loss at the start of the study, they monitored their use of tobacco and hearing ability over eight years. At the end of the study the researchers determined that 5,100 study participants had developed hearing loss. This data revealed that those who smoked were 60% more likely to develop high frequency hearing loss and 20% more likely to develop low frequency hearing loss. The study also identified that the more a person smoked consistently, the worse their hearing was especially for those with high frequency hearing loss. Those who smoked as much as 10 cigarettes daily were 40% more likely, while those who smoked more than 20 (more than a pack a day) had a 70% chance of hearing loss!
- A 2011 study from New York University examined the effects on secondhand smoke on hearing ability. Based on a study group of 1,533 participants, between the ages of 12-19 years old, who did not smoke but lived with a smoker, the study found that participants who were exposed to secondhand smoke were nearly twice as likely to develop low and high frequency hearing loss.
Protecting Your Hearing Health
If you are concerned about your hearing health one step you can take now is to stop smoking. However, our actions do not happen in a bubble and ultimately affect those around us. With New Years right around the corner this could be a great time to quit smoking if not for you, then for the people you spend every day with. If a hearing loss is present, we can test and come up with comprehensive actions to protect and treat a hearing loss. Contact us today to find out more!