Most of us know smoking is not good for our health, increasing our risk of multiple cancers, heart disease and stroke. But now, a new large scale study has revealed it may also have a negative impact on our hearing.
According to the study of more than 50,000 participants over eight years, smoking is associated with increased risk of hearing loss as we age.
Even after adjusting for factors including occupational noise exposure, the researchers found smokers are 1.2 to 1.6 times more likely to develop hearing loss compared with people who have never smoked. This is the equivalent of smokers having around a 20% increased risk of hearing loss.
To establish whether there is a link between smoking and hearing loss, researchers analysed data from annual health checkups, which included audio testing performed by a technician, and a health-related lifestyle questionnaire completed by each participant.
They analysed data on smoking status – such as ‘current smoker’, ‘former smoker’, and ‘has never smoked’- alongside the number of cigarettes smoked per day, the duration of smoking, and the extent of hearing loss.
They found the the risk of both high-frequency and low-frequency hearing loss increased with cigarette consumption. But thankfully, the damage appeared to be reversible. The increased risk of hearing loss decreased within five years after quitting smoking.
“With a large sample size, long follow-up period, and objective assessment of hearing loss, our study provides strong evidence that smoking is an independent risk factor of hearing loss,” said the study’s lead author Dr Huanhuan Hu of Japan’s National Centre for Global Health and Medicine.
“These results provide strong evidence to support that smoking is a causal factor for hearing loss and emphasise the need for tobacco control to prevent or delay the development of hearing loss.”
The study is published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, published by Oxford University Press.