Link Between Hearing Loss & Second Hand Smoke

Link Between Hearing Loss & Second Hand Smoke
Dr. Steinberg
Latest posts by Dr. Steinberg (see all)

Did you know that 1 in 6 people have some degree of hearing loss? Hearing loss is the third most pervasive health issue people experience today. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is much  more common than you may think. Several factors can contribute to the development of hearing loss including aging, loud noise, and even second hand smoke. Identifying and modifying behaviors that can increase the risk of hearing loss is an important prevention strategy. Reducing your exposure to secondhand smoke can help protect your hearing health and wellness. 

Link between Hearing Loss & Second Hand Smoke

Substantial research shows that there is a significant correlation between smoking and hearing loss. Studies show that smokers can be much more likely to experience impaired hearing compared to nonsmokers. A study published in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research Journal found that participants who smoked were 60% more likely to develop high frequency hearing loss and 20% more likely to develop low frequency hearing loss. These findings are part of extensive research showing that smoking is a risk factor for hearing loss. In addition to smoking, studies show that second-hand smoke can also contribute to hearing loss. 

A major study that investigates the link between second hand smoke and hearing loss involved examining 3,307 adults (ages 29 – 69). Participants reported their smoking patterns and also had their hearing health evaluated. Researchers found that: 

  • 10% of the group had hearing loss
  • Smokers were 70% more likely than non-smokers to develop hearing loss.
  • Non-smokers living with smokers were twice as likely to develop hearing loss.

These findings show that both smokers and people exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to experience hearing loss. This highlights that second-hand smoke can also impact hearing health, causing irreparable damage that contributes to hearing loss. 

Impact of Second Hand Smoke on Hearing Health 

Second hand smoke can impact the auditory system – the sensory system for hearing – in a few ways that then affects hearing. This includes: 

  • Impacts blood circulation: nicotine is the active ingredient in cigarettes. Whether directly intaking nicotine or being exposed to it second hand, it can impact blood circulation. It can impact blood vessels and restrict blood flow throughout the body including the inner ear. This can result in the inner ear not receiving adequate oxygen levels which impact how soundwaves are processed. Restricted blood flow can damage the sensory cells in the inner ear, reducing their capacity to effectively process incoming sound waves. 
  • Increases blood pressure: second hand smoke can also increase blood pressure as well as heart rate. Not only does this contribute to an increased risk of developing hypertension, but it impacts arteries which increases other health risks including heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. Increased blood pressure can also impair the cells and nerve pathways in the inner ear that play a role in how sound is processed. 
  • Nerve damage: the nerves and neural pathways can also be damaged as a result of second hand smoke. This disrupts neurotransmitters and signals that travel from the inner ear to the brain. 

Second hand smoke can affect health in significant ways including increasing health risks. This includes contributing to the development of hearing loss. But it is important to know that there are several safety measures you can practice to help protect your hearing health.  

Tips to Protect Hearing Health

There are a few tips you can integrate into your life to protect your hearing health. This includes:

  • Reducing exposure: it is important to reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke as much as possible. This includes avoiding places that don’t have separate areas for smoking as well as compact spaces. If you live with a smoker, be sure to ask them to smoke outside. 
  • Practice healthy habits: there are several ways you can support healthy blood flow including: eating a healthy diet, creating the best conditions for quality sleep, exercising, managing stress effectively etc. 
  • Regularly test hearing health: another useful strategy is to get your hearing tested regularly. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures your hearing capacity in both ears. This allows you to track your hearing health and intervene early if you experience any symptoms. 

Integrating these tips can help protect your hearing, reducing the risk of hearing loss. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test.