Smoking is bad for your health. Cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems are all directly related to the nicotine habit. Now, hearing loss is joining the evergrowing list of the negative consequences of smoking. Research is suggesting that smoking damages the delicate hair cells in the inner ear which leads to hearing loss. This research is the latest in a long line of studies that point to the impact smoking can have on your ability to listen.
According to estimates, one in five Americans is a smoker. The relaxing drag of a cigarette does much more than calm the nerves; it also includes formaldehyde, arsenic, vinyl chloride, ammonia, and nicotine. These chemicals can impair hearing, promote tinnitus, or affect your balance. Specifically, smoking can affect your hearing in the following ways:
The risk is not limited to smokers as those who endure secondhand smoke are also setting themselves up for an increased risk of hearing loss.
The nicotine and carbon dioxide found in smoking materials tighten the blood vessels including those in your ears resulting in restricted blood flow. Oxygen depletes causing the hair cells to receive damage. Nicotine also affects the neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve preventing sound information to be accurately processed. As if that is not enough, smoking also releases free radicals into the body which can cause permanent damage to the hair cells causing hearing loss. The risk is cumulative. Smoking in combination with other hearing loss risk factors such as loud noise increases one’s risk of a hearing loss. The length of time you smoke, and the amount of tobacco consumed also impact the risk. Cutting down on the frequency and amount can help your hearing, and if you quit altogether, you can dramatically improve your hearing health.
Smoking is terrible, but you can quit. According to the American Lung Association, the positive benefits of smoking cessation begin just 20 minutes after you stop! Lowered blood pressure, improved circulation, and improved smell and taste quickly return. Other benefits include:
Any sensorineural hearing loss that you may develop from smoking is irreversible. However, you can prevent further damage. If you are ready to quit and need help, check out smokefree.gov or the American Lung Association for great tips on how to quit smoking. Also, remember to have your hearing checked regularly by a qualified hearing healthcare professional!