Studies by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) show that smoking is a well-established risk factor for hearing loss, either in one ear or both. For example, a January 2022 study from the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery Department observed hearing loss over 30 years among three groups: non-/former smokers, smokers who quit during the study period, and smokers who continually smoked throughout.
Those who didn’t stop smoking scored poorer on hearing tests.
At least one older study found similar results; according to another study published in JAMA, those exposed to cigarette smoke had worse hearing than those not exposed at all. And the elevated risk extends to non-smokers living with a smoker, who are two times more prone to suffer hearing loss than those who were not exposed.
This last point is essential: a considerable number of people — nearly 80 percent of the participants in the most recent study — had no idea their hearing health had been affected.
Adjacently, smoking is also linked to tinnitus, dizziness, and vertigo.
How Is Smoking Connected to Hearing Loss in One Ear or Both?
Nicotine and carbon monoxide are harmful chemicals in cigarettes that drop blood oxygen levels, making your heart work harder. They also cause the blood vessels in your body – including those in your inner ear – to constrict, leading to hair loss. In addition, nicotine and cigarette smoke can:
- interfere with the neurotransmitters responsible for sending sound signals to the brain,
- irritate the Eustachian tube and the inner ear,
- release free radicals that can damage DNA and cause disease,
- make you more sensitive to loud sounds and more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss in one ear or two and tinnitus.
Smoking and Ear-Related Problems
Smoking harms adults’ and children’s bodies in various ways. When smokers have a cold or the flu, they are more likely to have a runny nose and a sore throat, while their lungs and nasal passages are more susceptible to infections.
The danger comes from their ear anatomy because the ears are so close to the mouth. The cause is twofold: when smokers get sick, the illness causes their immune systems to weaken, increasing the risk of ear infections; but children’s ear anatomy is also more susceptible to these infections in the first place.
Furthermore, when children grow up exposed to secondhand smoke, this can bring more constant, severe asthma attacks, respiratory problems, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In some cases, middle ear infections in kids can lead to hearing loss.
Smoking while pregnant may also harm a baby’s hearing. Children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are at an elevated risk of developing hearing loss in one ear or both across their childhood. This risk continues well into their teens.
Does Vaping Remove Hearing Loss Risk?
E-cigarettes as a substitute for smoking may seem like suitable preventive measures against the risks above. Is vaping safer for your hearing? Scientists don’t yet know.
However, what’s certain are these:
- After you stop smoking, in 20 minutes, your blood pressure and circulation improve.
- Within two days, your sense of smell and taste return to normal.
- Within a week, some nerve endings begin to regenerate.
The same rings slightly true for hearing loss in one ear or both. While the effects of smoking-induced deafness are irreversible, you can protect yourself from future hearing damage after quitting.
Prevent Hearing Loss in One Ear or Both by Quitting Nicotine
If you’re ready to quit smoking and don’t know where to start, visit smokefree.gov to learn what steps you can take. The American Lung Association also offers an online Freedom From Smoking program, which teaches strategies and tips that help smokers quit for good.
It is also best to supplement these efforts to beat hearing loss by consulting with experts from Fraser Valley Beltone! We are a hearing clinic that connects with you as a person and understands what’s essential in a healthcare partner. Get our latest offer on hearing aids at our website!