The further we get from indoor restaurants and workplace smoking, the less believable it feels that breakfast out with your family once included buckets of secondhand smoke. While it may feel as if smoke-free laws have been around a long time, as few as 26 U.S. states had comprehensive smoke-free bans in place by December 31, 2010.
Though smoke-free bans have cut down on a substantial amount of secondhand smoke exposure, tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States. When you think of smoking-related diseases, lung and throat cancer are probably the first to mind. However, one significant disease you may not consider as a result of smoking is hearing loss.
How Common Is Hearing Loss in Smokers?
One study analyzing the hearing of 3,753 participants found that current smokers were 1.69 times as likely to have hearing loss than nonsmokers.
Why Are Smokers More Likely To Develop Hearing Loss?
Cigarettes are filled with over 600 ingredients that, when burned, release over 7,000 chemicals. Of these 7,000 chemicals, at least 69 are known to cause cancer or have a toxic effect on your health.
Because cigarettes contain so many toxic chemicals, isolating just one central explanation for their effect on your hearing is difficult. Instead, one hospital-based study on the effects of smoking on hearing health defines several possible mechanisms responsible for hearing damage, including:
- Nicotine ototoxicity. Nicotine is one of the most well-known components of cigarettes. In addition to creating the addictive feeling in cigarettes, nicotine is an ototoxic drug that may result in damage to the hearing structures of the ear.
- Carbon monoxide. Heavy cigarette smokers present with high levels of carbon monoxide toxicity ranging from 21.8% to 24.2%. High levels of carbon monoxide can reduce oxygen availability to the corgi (the organ responsible for sending sound signals to the brain) and damage the hearing apparatus.
- Blood flow disruption. Smoking is a risk factor for atherosclerosis (the thickening or hardening of the arteries). When atherosclerosis affects the blood flow of the vascular network that supplies the hearing system, hearing loss can occur.
Nicotine ototoxicity, carbon monoxide and blood flow disruption are just three ways smoking can impact your hearing health. In addition to preventing lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, quitting smoking can help prevent damage to your hearing.
Quitting smoking can seem impossible at times. Lean on your loved ones for support and find relaxing things to help calm your nerves from withdrawal. Consider taking a class at Infrared Yoga or walking in the park when you feel stressed. Anytime you feel stressed, try to remember that quitting smoking will safeguard not only your hearing health but also the health of those around you.
To learn more about protecting your hearing, contact Evergreen Speech and Hearing Clinic today to make an appointment with one of our trusted specialists.