Children exposed to second hand smoke in the womb may be at a higher risk of hearing loss, a study says.
A study suggests a link between smoking during pregnancy and the hearing outcome of the offspring. This adds another health risk to the list of the dangers caused by smoking while pregnant.
In a group of young adults, 16.2% of the youths had mothers who smoked while pregnant. These teenagers were at a higher risk of a significantly elevated hearing threshold at the 2 and 6 kHz levels, the study showed. One-in-six experienced a hearing loss in at least one ear compared to one-in-fourteen youngsters, who were not exposed to smoke in the womb.
Teenagers with hearing loss
The results are found in a study led by Michael Weitzman, M.D., from the New York University School of Medicine in the U.S., who examined the relationship between prenatal smoke exposure and hearing loss. Weitzman and his colleagues analysed data from a group of 964 young adults between the ages of 12 and 15. The teenagers had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2005-2006, which included hearing tests.
Learning- and social difficulties
Though the hearing loss was mild, easy to overlook and often came as a surprise to the teenagers, the impairment was serious enough to cause some real problems with learning and listening to teachers.
Weitzman says “Many teens with mild hearing loss don’t realize they have a problem, but it can lead to irritability and trouble in school.”
Even mild hearing loss measured in adolescence can get worse in adulthood. Hence it is important to spot young people with hearing problems early so that they can get the necessary help and guidance.
The researchers suggest that parents of 12 to 15-year-olds should consider a hearing test for their child if they smoked during pregnancy.
The results were published online in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. The researchers found a strong association between smoking exposure in womb and the hearing of their offspring.
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