How Smoking and Drinking Affect Hearing

We can help you find the correct model to treat even slight hearing loss due to smoking issues or alcohol use.

How Smoking and Drinking Affect Hearing

by Dr. Kevin Ivory
There are environmental as well as physical factors that can contribute to hearing loss. Studies have linked smoking – including second-hand smoke exposure – as well as alcohol consumption to hearing loss. One study done by the American Medical Association shows smokers are more likely to experience hearing loss than non-smokers. And the so-called passive or second-hand smoke will also affect hearing. Similar studies done here and in Europe show a link between alcohol use and hearing impairment. If you suspect your smoking or your exposure to second-hand smoke, either at home or in the workplace, may have affected your hearing, make an appointment for a hearing evaluation at Glendora Hearing Aids & Audiology. We work with numerous hearing aid manufacturers and we can help you find the correct model to treat even slight hearing loss due to smoking issues or alcohol use.

Smoking Statistics

Studies dating back more than 10 years show smokers are 70% more likely to experience hearing loss. That risk goes up exponentially with the number of cigarettes smoked daily. The likelihood of hearing impairment also goes up when the length of exposure is considered. For instance, individuals who were in an environment for a significant amount of time, with their own smoke or smoke from other, are more likely to experience hearing loss.

Age also plays a part in the likelihood of experiencing hearing loss due to smoking. Seniors who smoked or continue to smoke are nearly one and a half times more likely to have hearing loss compared to those in their age group who didn’t or don’t smoke. Nearly 30% of smokers studied in the age group of between 48 and 59 years old had hearing loss. The same number of non-smokers surveyed in that age group showed only 16% had hearing loss issues.

Hearing loss due to smoking rises if there is also an exposure to loud noise. This means individuals who smoke at work where they also are exposed to noise run a higher rise of experiencing hearing loss. This would affect people working in a manufacturing facility that allows smoking as well as working in an entertainment venue where there is loud music as well as smoke. One study of employees in a manufacturing environment involving noise showed those who smoked were four times more likely to have some hearing loss.

Passive or Second-Hand Smoke

If you’ve given up smoking, that’s great! But unfortunately, staying in an environment where you may be exposed to smoke daily will result in hearing loss. Studies show that continued exposure to second-hand smoke will reduce hearing so normal conversational speech may seem muffled. Second-hand smoke can also cause hearing loss in children. The auditory nerves are not fully developed until late adolescence and so their ears can be more easily damaged with exposure to second-hand smoke.

The Medical Facts

Nicotine and carbon monoxide, toxins associated with smoking, constrict blood vessels including the fragile blood vessels located in the inner ear. Nicotine also affects neurotransmitters, the nerve transmitters that send a message from the brain to the ear for sound processing. Damage to the neurotransmitters reduces the ability to target certain sounds with background noise. This would affect to ability to pick out a voice speaking with other sound around you. Prolonged alcohol use, according to research, has effects similar to prolonged smoking, on brain neurotransmitters as well as the inner ear.

Hearing Loss and Alcohol

Although the study of alcohol and hearing loss is less recognized than hearing loss and smoking, studies show heavy and even social drinking will cause hearing damage. Alcohol use over a lengthy time period can damage the central auditory cortex of the brain. That area of the brain processes auditory signals so sounds are less distinguishable if that area is damaged.

There is damage to the actual ear itself from alcohol use. A British study involving research on those suffering from alcoholism shows the tiny sensitive hair cells within the inner ear are permanently damaged when there are high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream. Low frequency sounds, such as conversation, become harder to hear.

Glendora Hearing Aids & Audiology

A hearing evaluation at Glendora Hearing Aids & Audiology is private, painless and can put your fears at ease if you suspect you have hearing damage. Call today for your appointment.


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