Hearing Loss and Cigarettes

Learn the Connection Between Hearing Loss and Cigarettes

The bad news about cigarettes just seems to keep coming. According to research, the same chemicals that make cigarettes bad for the rest of your body make them bad for your hearing as well.

Let’s take nicotine as an example, a known “ototoxic” chemical; that means it poses a danger to the ability to hear. By reducing blood flow to the cochlea in the inner ear, nicotine can lead to balance issues and hearing problems, including tinnitus (otherwise known as “ringing in the ears”). And the threat isn’t limited to tobacco cigarettes. According to the Canadian Journal of Health, some 20% of young adults have used e-cigarettes that contain nicotine.

That’s just one of the effects smoking can have on hearing; studies show that smoking can affect the “conductive” hearing mechanisms, as well, such as the ear drum. Anyone who smokes should be including hearing tests in their annual health checkups, to be sure that smoking-related hearing loss isn’t coming on.

Adding another step to your annual healthcare regimen may sound like an inconvenience, but the consequences of ignoring the effect of smoking on your hearing can be devastating. For instance, noise-related hearing loss is made worse by long-term smoking. And as we grow older, untreated hearing loss increases the likelihood of being hospitalized, suffering from depression and developing dementia.

Smokers are 70% more likely to develop hearing loss than non-smokers; the secondhand smokers who live with them are 28% more likely. Indeed, a 1998 study of 3,753 people found that current smokers are nearly twice as likely than non-smokers to have hearing loss.

The link between smoking and hearing loss has been suspected since a study in 1962, and research continues to confirm the link.