Smoking and Hearing Loss

Did you know that smokers are 70 percent more likely to develop hearing loss than nonsmokers? Yet despite this correlation and the many harmful side effects associated with smoking cigarettes, 40 million U.S. adults still smoke. Explore the relationship between smoking and hearing loss to better understand why cigarettes are able to impact the health and function of your auditory system.

There have been many studies conducted that conclude the link between smoking and potential hearing loss. In fact, current smokers have a 15.1 percent increased chance of hearing loss, however, there is a higher chance associated with heavier smokers than lighter smokers. For example: 

  • 10 cigarettes per day: 40% more likely to develop some high-frequency hearing loss and 10% more likely to get low-frequency hearing loss. 
  • 11-20 cigarettes per day: 60% more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss and 20% more likely to get low-frequency hearing loss.
  • 20 cigarettes per day: 70% more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss and 40% more likely to get low-frequency hearing loss.

Nicotine Damages Neurotransmitters

Nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco, interferes with the neurotransmitters that communicate with your brain and help it interpret meaningful sounds. When these neurotransmitters are damaged, hearing loss occurs (source). Nicotine can also cause other hearing-related issues, like tinnitus, dizziness, and vertigo.

Carbon Monoxide Constricts Blood Vessels

Smoking tobacco increases the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood, which may constrict your blood vessels, including the blood vessels in your inner ears. This tightening can interfere with the healthy blood flow to your ears and prevent oxygen from reaching your inner ears, which contain many components that play a huge role in your ears’ ability to hear sounds. For example, damage to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea from lack of oxygen will impact your ears’ ability to translate sound vibrations into electrical impulses for the brain.

Second-Hand Smoke and Hearing Loss

Unfortunately, second-hand smoke also poses a threat to your hearing. It is especially dangerous for children. Children’s auditory systems don’t fully develop until their teen years, and second-hand smoke can disrupt the formation process. In fact, a study by the New York University School of Medicine found that adolescents exposed to tobacco smoke performed worse on sound frequency tests than adolescents who weren’t exposed (source). So if you or someone you love smokes, avoid smoking near children, especially in an enclosed space.

Smoking and Middle Ear Infections 

Cigarette smoking is also directly linked to ear infections for children and adults. Smoking harms tissues in the nose and throat as well as impairs the immune system. This combination creates an increased risk of ear infections. Children are already at heightened risk of ear infections due to their ear anatomy and adding exposure to second-hand smoke enhances this risk. 

Not only are ear infections painful but they can cause more uncomfortable side effects like dizziness, nausea, loss of balance, and fever. If you are suffering from an existing ear infection and continue smoking or being exposed to cigarette smoke, the intensity of the infection could worsen as smoke creates blockages that can lead to fluid build-up in the ear. 

Does Vaping Cause The Same Hearing Loss Risks at Cigarette Smoking?

Vaping or electronic cigarettes are considered an alternative to regular cigarettes and have become a popular option for teens and adults. Although vaping is considered less dangerous for your health than cigarettes, there are still many chemicals (including nicotine and tar) that can be introduced to the body from vaping liquid and cartridges. Similar to traditional cigarettes, these chemicals may harm the inner ear hair cells, thus increasing the risk of permanent hearing damage and hearing loss.

Tips for Breaking the Habit

While an addiction to smoking can be hard to break, with persistence and determination, anyone can kick the habit. Use these tips to quit smoking for good:

  • Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy: The first few weeks after quitting smoking are typically the hardest. Consider using nicotine patches or nicotine gum to ease your body’s cravings during the initial withdrawal stages.
  • Define Your “Why”: Many people who successfully quit smoking have a strong personal reason that motivates them. Define why you want to stop smoking, and create visual reminders that inspire you to break the habit. For example, if you want to stop smoking so you can live a long and healthy life for your family, put up pictures of your children on your desk and use them as your phone’s wallpaper.
  • Ask for Support: Sometimes sharing your goals can make you feel more accountable and more likely to achieve success. Tell your friends and family about your goal to stop smoking, and find someone you can call or text when you feel the urge to smoke. This friend can remind you of all the reasons why you should put down the cigarette.

Benefits of Quitting Smoking

Looking for more reasons to quit? Aside from the increased risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, here are some other benefits to quitting and the positive effects it can have: 

  • 12 hours after your last cigarette: blood oxygen levels improve in the body as carbon monoxide levels return back to normal.
  • 3 days after your last cigarette: increased energy and easier breathing 
  • Weeks to months after your last cigarette: better blood flow, improved lung strength, and reduced risk of hearing loss associated with smoking. 
  • 5 years after your last cigarette: lowered chances of stroke (the same as a non-smoker!) and you become 50% less likely to get certain forms of cancer and virtually eliminate your risk of hearing loss associated with smoking. 

Conclusion – Smoking and Hearing Loss

A growing body of research suggests that smoking can lead to permanent hearing loss. Protect your precious auditory system by quitting smoking today.

If you would like to learn more about smoking and hearing loss, reach out to Sound Relief Hearing Center in Colorado or Arizona. We are independently owned, so we always have the patient’s best interest at heart. Plus, our state-of-the-art technology ensures that our patients receive the best treatment available. With our unparalleled excellence in the hearing industry, our dedication to patient care, and our commitment to helping people control and conquer their hearing issues, you can count on Sound Relief Hearing Center. To learn more about us, please browse our website, visit our YouTube channel, or give us a call at 720-344-7600. You can also schedule an appointment online to meet with one of our audiologists. We look forward to hearing from you!

At Sound Relief Hearing Center, we provide hope and help to those living with tinnitus and other hearing health issues. Our patients are at the center of everything we do, and we strive to guide them to overcome their challenges by delivering innovative and compassionate healthcare.

Dr. Julie Prutsman, owner of this family-owned practice, has expanded to 8 locations across Colorado and Arizona. In 2012, she founded Sound Relief in her hometown of Highlands Ranch, Colorado and continues to foster their mission through mentorship of the brightest minds in the field of Audiology.