Smoking is associated with increased risk of hearing
loss especially at the high frequency and the risk
increases with each additional cigarette people
smoke, a Japanese study led by Huanhuan Hu of the
Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the
National Center for Global Health and Medicine in
Quitting smoking virtually eliminates the excess
risk of hearing loss, even among quitters with short
duration of cessation.
Researchers examined data on 50,195 Japanese
workers, ages 20 to 64, who didnít have hearing
At the start of the study about 19,000 of the
participants were current smokers, about 9,800 were
former smokers and 21,000 had never smoked.
Current smokers were more likely to be overweight or
obese, have chronic health problems like high blood
pressure and diabetes, and work in jobs with higher
levels of occupational noise.
Pure-tone audiometric testing was performed annually
to identify hearing loss at 1 and 4 kHz and after a
maximum follow-up of eight years, more than 5,100
people developed hearing loss: 3532 individuals
developed high-frequency hearing loss, and 1575
developed low-frequency hearing loss.
Compared to nonsmokers, people who currently smoked
up to 10 cigarettes a day were 40 percent more
likely to develop high frequency hearing loss that
makes it hard to understand speech in noisy
environments and 10 percent more likely to develop
low frequency hearing loss that makes difficult to
detect deep voices.
When they went through 11 to 20 cigarettes a day,
they were 60 percent more likely to develop
high-frequency hearing loss and 20 percent more
likely to develop low frequency hearing loss.
With more than 20 cigarettes a day, people were 70
percent more likely to develop high frequency
hearing loss and 40 percent more likely to develop
low frequency hearing loss.
These results suggest that smoking may be a causal
factor for hearing loss, although further research
would be required to confirm this: while the study
wasnít a controlled experiment designed to prove
whether or how smoking might cause hearing loss,
itís possible that nicotine exposure may damage the
ears, lead study author Huanhuan Hu said.
For more information
Smoking, Smoking Cessation, and the Risk of Hearing
Loss: Japan Epidemiology Collaboration on
Occupational Health Study