The dangerous link between smoking and hearing loss

  Posted March 25, 2019

Smoking is a well-established risk factor for hearing loss. Studies have shown that time and again exposure to cigarette smoke–whether directly, secondhand, or even in utero–can have a big impact on a person’s hearing health.

How does smoking affect hearing?

Both nicotine and carbon monoxide lower oxygen blood levels and constrict blood vessels all over your body–including those in your inner ear responsible for maintaining hair cell health. Also nicotine and cigarette smoke are thought to:

  • interfere with neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve, which are responsible for telling the brain which sound you are hearing.
  • irritate the Eustachian tube and lining of the middle ear.
  • trigger the release of free radicals that can damage DNA and cause disease.
  • make you more sensitive to loud noises and therefore more susceptible to developing noise-induced hearing loss.

Is smoking linked to ear infections?

Yes, for both adults and kids. The cause is two-fold: Smoking weakens the immune system and it damages tissues in the nose and throat, making them more susceptible to infections that affect the ears, too.

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