Smoking and Hearing Loss: Helping the Hearing Impaired

Smoking may do a number on your lungs, your heart and many other organs in your body, but not many people know it also affects your hearing. If you’re hearing impaired or are regularly exposed to loud noises, quitting smoking as soon as possible should be a priority.

Smoking harms the human body in more ways than most people realize. Everybody knows that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and COPD, but far fewer people know about the impact smoking has on hearing. For those with hearing impairment or who are regularly exposed to loud noises at work, this is yet another reason to quit smoking as soon as possible or to never start in the first place. Finding out more about the link between smoking and hearing loss ensures you’re informed of all of the risks, and the best ways to avoid them.

The Link Between Smoking and Hearing Loss

The link between smoking and hearing loss has been addressed by several studies, and generally these show that smoking increases your risk of hearing issues. One of the most widely-cited studies on the topic was published in 1998, and involved 3,753 adults aged between 48 and 92. After examinations were conducted and questions about smoking history were asked, the study found an increase in risk of hearing loss of 69 % in smokers, after other factors were adjusted for.

Another well-known study looked at a group of 8,543 people regularly exposed to occupational noise, and found a significant association between smoking and hearing loss. In particular, the authors found that heavier smoking impacted low-frequency hearing more severely. While this result showed a dose-response relationship – with more smoking causing a greater risk – the same wasn’t observed for high-frequency sound.

Finally, a much larger study from the UK looked at data from over 160,000 adults aged between 40 and 69, and found that smokers were 15.1 % more likely to develop hearing loss in comparison to non-smokers or people exposed passively. Passive smokers were 28 % more likely to develop hearing loss. This study did find a dose-response relationship, so heavier smokers were observed to be at greater risk.

While more research is needed to clarify the reasons for the link and how serious the risk is, there is ample evidence to urge caution for smokers who may be at risk of hearing loss.

Why Would Smoking Affect Hearing?

The link between smoking and hearing loss may seem baffling, and the truth is that researchers aren’t exactly sure of how smoking appears to be affecting hearing. The leading theory is that it relates to the effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system – that is, the heart and blood vessels. In particular, the impact of smoking on the blood vessels could lead to small changes in the delicate system of the ear which have consequences for hearing.

However, it could also be that smoking has a direct impact on hearing that researchers haven’t been able to identify yet.

Why You Should Quit Smoking

Despite the link between smoking and hearing impairment, there are many other reasons you should quit smoking that have nothing to do with your ears. Smoking drastically increases your risk of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, COPD and many other health conditions. It can cause cancer in most places in your body, and also causes other issues such as infertility and even diabetes. Overall, smokers die about a decade sooner than non-smokers.

Hearing issues may pale in comparison to some of the more life-threatening health conditions caused by smoking, but it’s yet another reason to avoid lighting up. This is especially true for anybody who works in a noisy environment or who’s already at risk of hearing issues for any other reason. Additionally, the risk from second-hand smoke means that if you want to protect your loved ones, you should at very least smoke outside rather than in your house.

Helping the Hearing Impaired Quit Smoking

The upshot is that quitting smoking should be a priority for anybody who smokes, but this is particularly true if you’re at increased risk of hearing loss or other smoking-related health conditions. If you smoke and are concerned about the risks, there are many approaches you can try to quit, and you should choose whichever one appeals to you.

Quitting “cold turkey” – without support – is the most popular option, but this does carry the lowest chance of success. If you use a replacement nicotine product, including patches, gums, inhalers, smokeless tobacco or e-cigarettes, you’ll give yourself a better chance of quitting. The very best approach to quitting in terms of success rates is using medication in combination with behavioral counseling, but it’s more important that you’re motivated and happy with the strategy you’re using.

Whether it’s for yourself or your loved one, quitting smoking is one of the best lifestyle changes you can make when it comes to your health.