You’d have to be living under a rock not to realize the health hazards associated with smoking cigarettes. Emphysema, bronchitis, lung cancer – the list is a mile long. Research shows that smokers in Reno are at risk of another health problem associated with cigarettes: hearing loss.
Risks of Cigarette Smoke
About one in five people has hearing loss in Reno. While aging and noise exposure are the top causes, cigarettes can also lead to hearing impairment, according to a Reuters News study published in 2018 – the latest in a series of studies that have found a connection between the two. Perhaps most troubling? The fact that those exposed to secondhand smoke or nicotine in utero are also more likely to suffer hearing damage. Non-smokers who live with people who light up are twice as likely to develop hearing loss, according to a JAMA study. And teenagers exposed to cigarette smoke are two to three times more likely to develop hearing loss compared to their non-smoking peers.
Hearing loss isn’t your only risk. Multiple studies have shown smokers can also experience tinnitus, dizziness and vertigo thanks to their deadly habit. Smoking weakens the immune system and damages nose and throat tissues, increasing the likelihood you’ll develop a painful ear infection. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have an even higher risk; they are already more susceptible to ear infections thanks to the anatomy of their growing ears. They also have a better chance of experiencing frequent, severe asthma attacks and respiratory infections. Those whose mothers smoked while pregnant are more likely to develop hearing loss; this may not occur until they are well into their teens.
How Does Smoking Affect Hearing?
Two compounds in cigarettes – nicotine and carbon monoxide – are the keys to understanding how smoking can damage hearing. Both lower oxygen blood levels and constrict blood vessels throughout the body, including those in your inner ear that promote healthy hair cells. Other adverse effects of nicotine include:
- Interference with neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve responsible for helping the brain process sounds
- Irritation of the Eustachian tube and lining of the middle ear
- Release of free radicals into the bloodstream that can damage DNA and cause disease
- Increased sensitivity to loud noises, making you more prone to noise-induced hearing loss
Fortunately, once you quit, your health risks begin to drop almost immediately. Within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, you’ll benefit from lower blood pressure and improved circulation, according to the American Lung Association. In eight hours, your carbon monoxide and oxygen levels will return to normal, and you’ll enjoy an improved sense of smell and taste within days. Other health benefits you will experience include:
- A reduced risk of lung cancer and other tumors
- A lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease,
- Fewer respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath,
- A reduced risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Improved fertility in women
Once hearing loss occurs there is no way to restore damaged sensory cells, but the sooner you quit, the lower your chances will be of causing additional nicotine-related hearing damage. Your Reno audiologist can help provide tips for quitting and will check your hearing if you haven’t had an audiological exam lately.