Yes, Smoking Is Bad for Your Hearing, Too

Even given everything we know today about the dangers of cigarettes, 1 out of every 10 Canadians is still smoking. If a loved one of yours is among them, maybe this bit of news will help you convince them to stop: It’s not just their lungs that are at risk; the bad stuff in cigarette smoke is bad for their hearing, as well.

Give him or her a moment to joke about it (“I don’t blow smoke out of my ears.”) and then make them stop laughing with some hard facts.

Start with the most famous component of cigarette smoke—nicotine, a known “ototoxic” substance. Ototoxic, translated literally, means “poison to the ear.”

There are a number of chemicals that can cause hearing problems. In the case of nicotine, blood flow to the cochlea (an important organ of the inner ear) is reduced, which can lead to problems that include tinnitus, a persistent ringing or buzzing that occurs when damage within the inner ear causes false sound signals to be sent to the brain.

How real is the threat of smoking to hearing? Hearing loss is 70% more likely in smokers than non-smokers. It’s a link that has been suspected since a study in 1962, and which researchers continue to confirm. The people who live with smokers are also at a loss, being 28% more like to develop hearing loss than people who aren’t regularly exposed to cigarette smoke.

By the way, if the smoker in your life thinks their getting away with something by using e-cigarettes, make sure they understand that nicotine is nicotine, however you inhale it. Be especially sure to make younger people aware of the e-cigarette risk. The Canadian Journal of Health published a statistic, saying approximately 20% of young adults have used nicotine e-cigarettes.

The nicotine effect is just one of the hearing-related disadvantages of smoking. Research has shown that the middle ear is endangered by smoking, too, due to its detrimental effect on the “conductive” elements of hearing, such as the ear drum and ossicle bones.

We recommend that everyone have their hearing checked on a regular basis but, in the case of smokers, we urge it especially strongly. If smoking-related hearing loss is coming on, the sooner you know about it, the better.

Yes, adding one more thing to your annual healthcare checklist is inconvenient, but allowing the possible effect of smoking on your hearing to go unchecked is about as unwise as…well…smoking.