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Smoking and Hearing Loss

If you’re a smoker, you might want to stub out that cigarette and listen up. A new study from Japan suggests that cigarette smoking can cause irreversible hearing loss – certainly not something to joke around about.

The study by the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo included 50,195 participants between the ages of 20 and 64 who were asked to submit health information between 2008-2010 about their smoking status, smoking intensity, and smoking cessation history. The research team then did frequent follow-up surveys on the participant’s health information until the spring of 2016 and identified cases in which hearing loss had occurred.

Throughout the course of this research, about 3,500 individual participants developed high-frequency hearing loss in one ear while another 1,600 participants developed low-frequency hearing loss in one ear.

After adjusting the data to account for other factors that might contribute to hearing loss, such as age, diabetes, hypertension, and other medical conditions, the team analyzed the data yet again and concluded that the more one smokes, the more likely they are to develop hearing loss.

In particular, according to this study, people who smoke 21 or more cigarettes a day are up to 1.7 times more likely to suffer from high-frequency hearing loss and 1.4 times more likely to experience low-frequency hearing loss than people who have never smoked before.

This study is not, however, the first to look at the connection between smoking and hearing loss. The first-ever study of this kind in the United States was completed in 1998 and corroborates the claims made by this most recent study. Additionally, the original study found that even secondhand smoke can cause hearing loss, too. Non-smokers living in a household with a smoker were 1.94 times more likely to have hearing issues than people who live in a smoke-free household.

These might seem like staggering statistics for smokers, but luckily for some, not all hope is lost. According to the research from Tokyo, people who had quit smoking for at least five years at the time of the original survey had similar risks of hearing impairment as lifetime non-smokers.

Plus, despite their current popularity, not even electronic cigarettes can protect smokers from this potential hearing loss. Since they, too, contain nicotine, researchers predict that they will also cause increased rates of hearing loss among smokers.

If you’re a smoker or someone who lives in a smoking household, these are statistics you ought to pay attention to. Researchers believe that the connection between smoking and hearing loss is due to a reduction in blood flow to the inner ear caused by the toxicity of nicotine.

At the end of the day, quitting smoking can have serious positive benefits for one’s hearing health, not to mention the other benefits of not smoking. If you or someone you love needs help smoking, there are a number of resources that can help you get the help you need. Smokers and non-smokers, alike, who are concerned about their hearing loss should schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional for personalized and professional treatment and advice.

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