Hearing loss is a critical topic to talk about and consider as we age. Statistics have shown that 50% of people over the age of 60 have been diagnosed with some form of hearing loss. Hearing loss not only affects day-to-day life, but it can also be an indicator of the beginning of more severe issues such as cognitive decline and dementia. As research continues and more and more data becomes available, more effective treatments are being developed to help those afflicted with hearing loss. Unfortunately, besides protection from high decibel sounds, effective prevention data remains elusive.
What is the Connection Between Smoking and Hearing Loss?
The good news is that a recent study done by Dr. Jennifer Deal and her colleagues has been shedding light on the connection between the use of cigarettes on hearing loss. The study was published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, the peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association. Dr. Deal and her team used an advanced methodology to examine the long-term data and establish links between smoking and hearing loss. The data consisted of 3,414 patients; the researchers divided the participants into three primary groups based on smoking habits; former and non-smokers, smokers who quit during the study’s time frame, and tobacco users who continued to smoke throughout the study.
Dr. Deal and her team used two hearing measurements for the study. To gauge the functions of the inner ear, they used pure tone audiometry. Speech-in-noise tests were used to evaluate central auditory processing. For both sets, Dr. Deal found that the risk of hearing loss for participants who stopped smoking was about the same as the non-smoking group. Her work indicates the negative effect of smoking on hearing health for both the inner ear and the associated parts of the brain. While she does admit that the study was limited in scope, the study helps point the way in the direction of future studies.
One thing that was clear to the study’s authors is how quitting smoking was linked to improved outcomes. As Dr. Deal continues her important work to study the causes of hearing loss, we get closer to understanding how to protect hearing health in the future better.