The Impact of Cigarettes on Hearing Loss & Tinnitus

FACT: Smokers are 1.69 times more likely to damage their hearing ability.

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Smoking Your Ears Away: The Impact of Cigarettes on Hearing Loss & Tinnitus

Yes, your smoking habit might be the cause for your hearing loss and others around you. 

We all know that smoking can harm your lungs and throat but the connection between smoking and your hearing is far more complex. Research carried out by Piers Dawes, a lead researcher on the study, says that the most likely reason that smoking and hearing loss are related is that smoking causes cardiovascular disease.

Key Findings:

  • Large Study – Data came from 164,700 adults in the United Kingdom
  • Current smokers have a 15.1 percent higher chance of hearing loss
  • Ex-smokers had no extra risk of hearing loss
  • Heavier smokers had a higher risk of hearing loss than lighter smokers
  • Second-hand smoke exposure of more than 10 hours per week was associated with a ~40 percent increased risk of hearing loss

So, how are smoking and hearing loss related?

The myriad of dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke, including formaldehyde, benzene, arsenic, vinyl chloride, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide, may affect both conductive hearing (middle ear vibrations) as well as inner ear hearing by damaging the hair cells lining the cochlea. In many studies, there is also a strong correlation between the number of cigarettes smoked and the degree of hearing loss. In other words, smoking-related hearing loss is dose-dependent. Nicotine and carbon monoxide deplete oxygen levels and constrict blood vessels all over your body – including those in your inner ear responsible for maintaining hair cell health.

  • Nicotine interferes with neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve, which are responsible for telling the brain which sound you are hearing.
  • Nicotine can cause tinnitus, dizziness and vertigo.
  • Smoking irritates the Eustachian tube and lining of the middle ear.
  • Smoking damages cells in the body, turning them into free radicals that can damage DNA and cause disease.

The Impact of Passive Smoking 

Your smoking habit is not only affecting your hearing; it is also affecting those around you. The auditory nerve is not fully developed until late adolescence, which means that passive smoking puts adolescents at increased risk for hearing loss (corroborated by the 2013 study mentioned above). Teens exposed to cigarette smoke are two to three times as likely to develop hearing loss compared to those with little or no exposure. This is also concerning when it comes to children who are exposed to passive smoking as their auditory system is usually not fully developed until late adolescence.  Eighty percent of the participants in the 2011 study had no idea their hearing health had been affected.

So, this National No Smoking Day consider putting down your cigarettes for good. Research shows that ex-smokers were at no extra risk of hearing loss so quitting smoking would be hugely beneficial in protecting against hearing loss

If you think you or someone you love is experiencing hearing loss, encourage them or yourself to take our free online hearing test. It's fun, easy and the results are instant!