We’ve all heard the statistics: smoking increases risk for all kinds of diseases, from heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems. You name it–smoking probably exacerbates the problem.
Despite all of the education warning against smoking in the past few decades, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimated that nearly 40 million American adults smoke cigarettes. Of those, 16 million suffer some disease as a result of this smoking habit, and more than 480,000 smokers die each year from smoking-related illness or disease.
We are now finding out that a smoking habit can also put you and anyone breathing second-hand smoke at risk for hearing loss as well.
Smoking and Hearing Loss
While it has long been suspected that smoking and hearing loss are linked, recent studies have now confirmed it: the American Medical Association found that smokers are more likely to suffer hearing loss by 70 percent than their non-smoking counterparts!
Young people are affected as well. New York University School of Medicine Research found that teenagers who are exposed to cigarette smoke (either by smoking or being around a smoker) are three times more likely to develop hearing damage than youth that are not exposed.
How Does Smoking Affect Hearing Loss?
Cigarettes contain a multitude of toxins and chemicals like ammonia, arsenic, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde and nicotine. The combination of carbon monoxide and nicotine contribute to constricted blood vessels all over the body, hindering blood circulation and depleting oxygen levels. The inner ear relies on healthy circulation to maintain hair cell health, which in turn allows us to hear the way we should.
Other ways that smoking can affect hearing loss include:
- Breathing in any kind of smoke is toxic, and smoke lets loose free radicals that are damaging to cells in the body, causing disease.
- Smoking can make you more sensitive to loud noises and exacerbate noise-induced hearing loss.
- The Eustachian tube and lining of the middle ear are irritated by smoking.
- The nicotine found in cigarettes can initiate dizziness, vertigo and tinnitus.
- Nicotine can also impede neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve–these nerves tell the brain how to interpret sound.
Benefits of Quitting
The longer you smoke, the more damage to hearing that can result. There is good news, however! Studies show that the benefits of quitting begin almost immediately. Your blood circulation improves as quickly as 20 minutes after quitting, and oxygen and carbon monoxide levels return to normal within about 8 hours. Your nerve cell endings begin to regenerate, and sensations of taste and smell begin to improve within 48 hours of your last cigarette.
You also benefit more the longer you go without another cigarette: coughing and shortness of breath subsides and you experience more normal and healthy breathing. You benefit from reduced risk of heart disease, vascular disease, lung cancer and other cancers. Women of chlid-bearing ages also benefit with a reduced risk of infertility.
The Time is Now!
Hearing damage that has already occurred is irreversible, but quitting smoking can prevent future nicotine-related damage to your hearing.
For those who are ready to quit smoking–help is available! Visit smokefree.gov to create a plan and get tips for handling your first few days without cigarettes.
The first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.