How does smoking affect hearing?

Smoking can have many damaging health effects, and you’ve probably heard about most of them. But one lesser-known impact of smoking is on your hearing. Below, we explore how smoking affects your hearing.

The link between smoking and hearing damage

Research from the journal of smoking and nicotine found that smokers were 1.2 to 1.6 times more likely to suffer hearing loss than people who never smoked. The study analyzed eight years of health data from around 50,000 people in Japan. Aside from this, the study found that once smokers quit, their risk of hearing loss would decline within five years. But the more people smoked, the greater their risk would become.

Can it cause tinnitus?

One hearing condition that smoking is associated with is tinnitus. This is a condition where you experience continuous ringing in one or both of your ears. It affects 15 to 20 per cent of people. This association is thought to occur because of the damage that smoking causes. Nicotine and carbon monoxide lower oxygen blood levels and constrict blood vessels in your body – the knock-on effect is hair cell health is damaged. At the same time, smoking makes you more sensitive to louder noises and interferes with the auditory nerves. Although scientists don’t know exactly how smoking causes tinnitus, these affects are thought to be problematic.

Vaping and hearing loss

Vaping is a common substitute for smoking and many people will be keen to know if there are similar problems associated with it. Research is still being gathered regarding vaping, but what scientists do think, is that nicotine can have a damaging affect on hearing as described above. Plus, the flavours used for vaping often contain unregulated chemicals so it’s best to examine what it is exactly that you’re vaping. Nevertheless, despite there being anecdotal tales about hearing loss and vaping, at this stage there isn’t precise understanding. However, if you are concerned about your hearing, quitting vaping could be a solid precautionary step.

Ultimately, smoking can raise your risk of suffering hearing problems. If you’re worried about your hearing, you could take a five-minute online hearing test to establish if there’s anything to be concerned about. Even if your hearing is in good condition right now, the best way to protect your ears for the future is to quit smoking soon.