Current & Former Smokers May Be at Higher Risk for Hearing Loss

Current & Former Smokers May Be at Higher Risk for Hearing Loss
Dr. Steinberg
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Our lifestyle habits can have serious effects on our health. We know that diet and exercise have a strong relationship with many aspects of health, and bad habits can also affect our current and future wellbeing. Smoking is one such habit that creates a whirlwind of negative health outcomes both in the present and down the line. When it comes to hearing loss, smoking is known to create higher rates in the present. Those who are current smokers have long been seen to have higher rates of hearing loss. However, did you know that former smokers also have higher rates of hearing loss? Specifically, the risk of hearing loss goes up with the number of “pack years” smoked. Let’s take a closer look at this current study, as well as what we can learn about the relationship between smoking and hearing loss within the body. It turns out that the risk of hearing loss is much greater for those who smoke, providing just one more reason to pursue a smoking cessation plan. 

Former and Present Smokers

Although other studies have shown that current smokers have higher rates of hearing loss, even controlling for other demographic and health factors, this recent study shows that former smokers are also at higher risk. The effect of smoking on the risk of hearing loss does decrease with time. Specifically, during the first 10 to 14 years after quitting smoking, the level of risk declines gradually, so the sooner you are able to quit smoking, the better your chances of avoiding hearing loss down the road. The study was based on 81,505 total women in the study. Among them, 2,760 had hearing loss, forming the test group. In general, 66.5 percent of participants were never smokers, 22.4 percent of participants were past smokers, and 11.1 percent of participants were current smokers. The rate of hearing loss risk decline steadily for 10 to 14 years among that 22.4 percent of study participants who were past smokers. 

The Relationship with Hearing Loss

How does smoking relate with hearing loss? When it comes to other health concerns, we can understand how smoking can cause problems. Limited oxygen flow makes is difficult to perform basic bodily functions, and the ears are not exempt from this bodily pathway. Hearing ability stems from sensitive, tiny, hairlike organelles of the inner ear called stereocilia. These fragile hair cells are likely to become bent, broken, or otherwise damaged when they are exposed to noise, for example. However, they are also susceptible to damage when they are deprived of the oxygen they need. Smoking limits oxygen flow through the body by doing damage to the lungs. Without sufficient oxygen to send through the body, the lungs can’t do their crucial work of keeping all body parts healthy and fully functional. The stereocilia can become damaged when they receive a depleted blood flow, and that lack of oxygen is ultimately due to a smoking habit. 

Smoking Cessation and Treatment for Hearing Loss

If you are a current smoker, the best thing you can do for your hearing health is to pursue a path toward cessation. You can consult with you doctor about the best ways to quit, and there are many new ways to embark on the path. Gums, patches, and other nicotine supplements can help cut the cravings for cigarettes and put you on a path toward quitting. If you are a former smoker, you might wonder what you can do. In addition to pursuing a healthy lifestyle in other regards, including a diet and exercise plan that is linked to better hearing, you can begin with a hearing test. Getting an accurate diagnosis of your hearing needs is the first step toward treatment. This exam will give us detailed information about the range of hearing that is difficult for you, and we will devise a treatment plan based on those results. If you are eligible for hearing aids, we can recommend the right range of aids to meet your individual needs. With hearing aids in place, you can enjoy better communication ability and a wide range of other health benefits, including improvements to physical, mental, and cognitive wellbeing.