The two most commonly-known risk factors for hearing loss include aging and noise exposure. But did you know that, in addition to a host of other health concerns, smoking cigarettes is linked to hearing loss, as well? We review the connection below.
What the Research Shows
Quite a bit of research has been done on the link between smoking and hearing loss. For example:
- A 2018 study of 50,000 Japanese workers found that smokers are 60% more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss compared to nonsmokers.
- Nonsmokers who live with smokers are twice as likely to develop hearing loss than those not exposed to secondhand smoke, according to an older study published by
- Another study on secondhand smoke published in 2011 found that teens exposed to cigarette smoke are two to three times more likely to develop hearing loss compared to those with little or no exposure.
- A 2018 review of 20 studies found that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that smoking is associated with tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
How Smoking Affects Hearing
Nicotine and carbon monoxide – both of which are found in cigarettes – lower blood oxygen levels and constrict blood vessels throughout your body, including in the inner ear. This leads to damage of the stereocilia, which are tiny hair cells that convert soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound.
In addition, nicotine and cigarette smoke are thought to:
- Interfere with the neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve.
- Irritate the lining of the middle ear and the Eustachian tubes.
- Release free radicals that cause disease.
- Sensitize you to loud noises like a strike at Mel’s Lone Star Lanes and make you more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss.
The Benefits of Quitting Smoking
There are many benefits to quitting smoking, and many of them start to take effect right away. The American Lung Association reports that 20 minutes after smoking your last cigarette, your blood pressure and circulation improve; within eight hours, your carbon monoxide and oxygen levels return to normal; within 48 hours, your sense of taste and smell improve and your nerve endings start to regenerate.
While quitting smoking won’t reverse the damage that’s already been done to your ears, it can prevent future damage.
For more information about the link between smoking and hearing loss or to schedule an appointment with an expert audiologist to seek treatment, call Hill Country Audiology today.