The research, published in the Journal of Association for Research in Otolaryngology, shows that current smokers have a 15.1 percent higher chance of hearing loss compared to nonsmokers. The risk is slightly reduced for former smokers. For passive smokers, the risk is even greater at 28 percent.
The increased risk among passive smokers could be because passive smokers were only compared to nonsmokers, while smokers were compared to both complete nonsmokers and passive nonsmokers.
The study involved 164,770 UK adults (ages 40 to 69) who underwent hearing tests between 2007 and 2010 through UK Biobank, a national project to improve health.
“Given around 20 percent of the UK population smoke and up to 60 percent in some countries, smoking may represent a significant cause of hearing loss worldwide,” said Dr. Piers Dawes from the Centre for Human Communication and Deafness at The University of Manchester.
“We found the more packets you smoke per week and the longer you smoke, the greater the risk you will damage your hearing.”
“We are not sure if toxins in tobacco smoke affect hearing directly, or whether smoking-related cardiovascular disease causes microvascular changes that impact on hearing, or both,” he added.
Researchers believe the link between smoking and hearing loss may be underestimated.
“Hearing loss affects 10 million people in the UK and with an aging population is set to become a major public health issue,” said Dr. Ralph Holme, head of Biomedical Research at Action on Hearing Loss.
“Hearing loss is often viewed as an inevitable consequence of aging, but as the research published today shows, this may not always be the case. Giving up smoking and protecting your ears from loud noise are two practical steps people can take today to prevent hearing loss later in life.”
The study was funded by Action on Hearing Loss, Medical Research Council, and the National Institute for Health Research.
Source: University of Manchester