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Can Secondhand Smoking Cause Hearing loss? — an article on the Smart Living Network
November 4, 2011 at 9:21 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Can Secondhand Smoking Cause Hearing loss?


I’ve heard of the many risks of smoking…if you are a smoker. But I never really thought much about the risks of secondhand smoke. I know it’s not the greatest thing to be near someone who is smoking, but I’m not the one who is lighting up. So, just how bad can it actually be?

The Center for Disease Control website lists the proven effects secondhand smoke can have on people's bodies overtime.

In adults, secondhand smoke can cause:

  • heart disease
  • lung cancer

In children, secondhand smoke can cause:

  • ear infections
  • frequent to severe asthma attacks
  • respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath)
  • respiratory infections (bronchitis, pneumonia) 

What about Hearing Loss?

One effect that was not listed above is hearing loss. Hearing loss, in general, affects 16.1% (29 million) adults in the United States. I came across two articles that alluded to an idea that secondhand smoke could possibly cause loss of hearing in young adults. Professor Anil Lalwani, lead researcher from the New York University School of Medicine, performed a study on the effects of secondhand smoke and hearing loss. 40% of the 800 teenagers who had been exposed to secondhand smoke as a child had detectable hearing problems.

The second article analyzed participants aged 20-69 years old. The groups were divided into people who had smoked in the past and those that had never smoked. The people who had previously smoked had a 14% hearing loss in low-to-mid frequencies and a 46.6% hearing loss in high frequencies. Those who had never smoked but were exposed to SHS showed 8.6% hearing loss in low-to-mid frequencies and 26.6% in high frequencies.

Other Factors

Other factors that increased the risk of hearing loss were increased age, male gender and diabetes of both those that were former smokers or never smoked. African American former smokers or never smokers were less likely to have high-frequency hearing loss than Caucasians. College educated people who never smoked were significantly less likely to have high-frequency hearing loss than those with high school education.


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  • Wow...that's really interesting! I would love to hear about the mechanics of that - how exactly does the smoke cause hearing loss?

  • I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that it can cause ear infections in children. Maybe those ear infections overtime can lead to hearing loss. This confirms that idea: "Exposure to ETS increases both the number of ear infections a child will experience, and the duration of the illness. Inhaled smoke irritates the eustachian tube, which connects the back of the nose with the middle ear. This causes swelling and obstruction which interferes with pressure equalization in the middle ear, leading to pain, fluid and infection. Ear infections and middle ear fluid are the most common cause of children’s hearing loss."

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