Smoking has been long-known to negatively impact hearing health. Recent studies have shown a dose-response relationship between smoking and hearing loss, implying that the more you smoke, the greater your risk. However, these studies also show that this risk is removed once you quit smoking—even if only for a short period.
Impact of Smoking on Hearing
Cigarettes are packed with nicotine, an addictive and harmful chemical. Nicotine can raise blood pressure, increase heart rate and constrict blood vessels. The inner ear, which relies heavily on good blood flow, may be damaged by these changes, particularly the hair cells that carry sound vibrations to the brain. When there is poor blood flow, oxygen cannot easily be delivered to the hair cells, resulting in damage.
Aside from these impacts, nicotine and cigarette smoke can harm overall health and hearing in other ways.
Additional effects of nicotine and cigarette smoke include:
- Releasing toxins that can damage DNA and cause diseases.
- Increasing susceptibility to loud noises, raising the risk for noise-induced hearing loss.
- Damaging the Eustachian tube and the lining of the middle ear.
- Interfering with the auditory nerve, affecting hearing.
- Weakening the immune system and damaging tissues in the nose and throat, increasing susceptibility to ear infections. Moreover, cigarette smoke is also linked to tinnitus, a condition marked by ringing, buzzing or other noises in one or both ears. This happens due to the same reasons that smoking affects hearing.
Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking yields numerous health benefits. According to the CDC, stopping smoking reduces the risk of several health issues, including infertility, and lowers the risks for certain types of cancers and heart and lung diseases.
A 2019 study showed that the additional risk of hearing loss from smoking decreases quite quickly after quitting. The study also found that quitting smoking almost eliminates the extra risk of hearing loss, even for those who have quit for a short period. Additionally, it found that smoking is related to an increased risk of high-frequency hearing loss; the degree of smoking affects your chances of developing hearing loss.
While sensorineural hearing loss developed during smoking cannot be reversed, quitting smoking can prevent further damage. If you’re concerned about your hearing and wish to consult with a hearing specialist, schedule an appointment at River ENT.