Cigarette smoking and hearing loss 

Cigarette smoking may cause hearing loss.

Smokers are nearly 70% more likely than non-smokers to suffer hearing loss, according to a study including more than 3,000 people. Another study found otherwise, absolving cigarettes from blame in hearing loss.

The first study, conducted in the United States and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, June 1998, concluded that the risk of hearing impairment often increases with the number of cigarettes smoked. In many cases, hearing problems increase proportionately with the intensity and duration of exposure to cigarette smoke. In general, smokers are 1.69 times more likely to damage their hearing ability. Heavy smokers are more than 1.30 times as likely to have a hearing loss in all age groups but the oldest. The greater prevalence of hearing loss among smokers remains the same after adjusting for factors such as occupational noise exposure, age and lifestyle.

According to the study, 25.9% of smokers in the youngest age group studied - 48 to 59 years of age - smoking caused hearing loss, compared to 16.1% among non-smokers. 22.7% of ex-smokers were suffering from hearing loss. The same trend was found in the older age groups.

The study found that passive smoking may cause hearing loss as well. Non-smokers living with a smoker were found to be 1.94 times more likely to suffer from hearing problems than those who were not living with a smoker.

The study included 3,753 individuals aged between 48 and 92. Of these, 46% were non-smokers, 39.3% were ex-smokers and 14.7% were current smokers. The current smokers smoked 17.5 cigarettes per day on average.

The more recent study carried out by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found no indication that smoking causes hearing loss in any of the categories of smokers, non-smokers or ex-smokers.

Whatever the effects of smoking on hearing, many other studies have established that smoking is damaging to the body.

Sources: "Cigarette Smoking and Hearing Loss - The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study", Journal of the American Medical Association, June 1998, vol. 279, and “Serum Cotinine Level and Incident Hearing Loss: A Case-Control Study,” Archives of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, November 2004, Vol. 130, p 1260-1264.