It’s no secret that cigarette smoking is bad for your health and the health of those around you when you smoke. It’s also costly, both for you financially and for society, due to the cost of caring for people with smoking-related diseases. And to add fuel to the fire, smoking can cause hearing loss.

The Data

A Reuters News report found in a study of 50,000 Japanese workers (age 24 – 64) that smokers were 60% more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss than non-smokers. In a follow-up study, 5,100 of those subjects acquired hearing loss after only eight years. High-frequency hearing loss causes difficulty with hearing and speech understanding when in loud / noisy environments.

This doesn’t only pertain to smokers.  The National Library of Medicine published a study of 165,000 adults and found that smokers, as well as those exposed to secondhand smoke, were more likely to experience hearing loss.

In another study, people exposed to secondhand smoke (passive smokers) were 28% more likely to acquire hearing loss than non-smokers. This study also found that smokers were 15% more likely to develop hearing loss than passive smokers.

How does hearing damage occur?

There are a few theories about how cigarette smoking damages hearing, but the most likely causes are toxins in the smoke physically damage the inner ear (cochlea). Combined with heart disease from smoking, which damages the microscopic blood vessels that supply blood to our inner ear, this creates a compounding of danger for our ears and hearing.

Adults, children, and infants exposed to secondhand smoke also experience higher levels of middle-ear infections. Smoking tobacco or marijuana has proven to irritate the cells that line the nasal passages and airways, making it difficult for harmful bacteria to be cleared out.  The middle-ear can also be affected by congestion of the nose and sinuses, via Eustachian tube dysfunction, which ultimately leads to longer healing times.

The ‘Q’ Word

It is tough to quit smoking because nicotine is a powerful drug and because habits are hard to break. Most people who try to quit ‘cold turkey’ on their own will fail. You will need help to quit – from your family and friends, your primary care doctor, and maybe even a counselor.

Where to Begin

Take the time to think of what kind of smoker you are, which moments of your life call for a cigarette, and why. These reasons will help you to identify which tips, techniques or therapies may be most beneficial for you.

  • Do you feel the need to smoke at every meal?
  • Are you more of a social smoker?
  • Is it a severe addiction (more than a pack a day)? Or would a simple nicotine patch do the job?
  • Do you reach for cigarettes when you’re feeling stressed out or down?
  • Are there certain activities, places, or people you associate with smoking?
  • Is your cigarette smoking linked to other addictions, such as alcohol or gambling?
  • Are you open to talking about your addiction with a therapist or counselor?

Visit Your Primary Care Doctor

Your doctor can help you quit smoking – so make an appointment, and keep it.