For years, it has been known that smoking leads to various health problems such as heart disease. Recent research from the United Kingdom has found that cigarette smoke also affects hearing.
According to the research, smokers have an increased risk of hearing loss of over 15% compared to non-smokers and passive smokers, while second-hand smoking increase the risk by 28%. On the other hand, ex-smokers have a slightly reduced risk of hearing impairment, likely because they adopted a healthier lifestyle after quitting smoking.
Even though the data indicated that second-hand smokers face the highest risk, the researchers pointed out that the passive smokers were only compared to non-smokers in the study – while smokers were compared to passive smokers as well as non-smokers.
Regardless of who faces the greatest risk, the conclusion remains the same, cigarette smoke damages the hearing.
Significant cause of hearing loss
In the study, researchers looked at the hearing test results of nearly 165,000 UK adults aged 40 to 69 years. All the participants underwent hearing tests between 2007 and 2010 as part of the UK Biobank – a national project in the UK to improve health.
The study showed that the risk of hearing loss increased with the number of cigarettes smoked per week.
The researchers assessed that almost 20% of the UK population and up to 60% of the population in some other countries smoke, making cigarettes a significant cause of hearing loss.
Why smoking leads to hearing loss remains unclear. However, smoke has been related to cardiovascular diseases causing microvascular changes which can impact hearing.
About the study
The study was carried out by Dr. Piers Dawes and his research team from the Centre for Human Communication and Deafness at The University of Manchester in the UK.
The results were published in the Journal of the Association of Research in Otolaryngology.