Smoking has long been accepted as a contributor to hearing loss. Recent research has further solidified this connection, demonstrating a dose-response relationship between smoking and hearing loss. More importantly, it has shown that the risk of hearing loss can be mitigated by quitting smoking, even if only for a brief period.
The Impact of Smoking on Hearing
Cigarette smoke contains nicotine, a highly addictive and toxic substance. Nicotine elevates blood pressure and heart rate while constricting blood vessels. This can be particularly harmful to the inner ear, which is acutely sensitive to changes in blood flow. Impacts to blood flow can damage the inner ear hair cells responsible for transmitting sound vibrations to the brain.
The detrimental effects of nicotine and cigarette smoke extend beyond the cardiovascular system, impacting overall health and, specifically, hearing capabilities.
Consequences of nicotine and cigarette smoke include:
- Release of toxins that can damage DNA and trigger diseases.
- Increased susceptibility to loud noises, raising the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.
- Damage to the Eustachian tube and middle ear lining.
- Interference with the auditory nerve, affecting hearing.
- Weakening of the immune system and tissue damage in the nose and throat, increasing vulnerability to ear infections.
The Benefits of Quitting
Quitting smoking comes with numerous health benefits. As per the CDC, cessation of smoking reduces the risk of multiple health issues, from infertility to certain types of cancers and heart and lung diseases.
A study conducted in 2019 revealed that the heightened risk of hearing loss linked to smoking declines relatively quickly after quitting. The research also discovered that giving up smoking almost eliminates the increased risk of hearing loss, even among those who have only recently quit. The study further found that smoking is associated with a higher risk of high-frequency hearing loss; the likelihood of developing hearing loss is proportional to the amount of smoking.
While sensorineural hearing loss incurred during smoking cannot be reversed, further damage can be prevented by quitting smoking. For further information about tobacco cessation programs, you can contact Northern Nevada Public Health.
If you have concerns about your hearing and wish to consult with a hearing specialist, schedule an appointment at LeMay Hearing & Balance.