Hearing Loss in Teens Linked to Secondhand Smoke

Hearing Loss in Teens Linked to Secondhand Smoke
General Health

cigaretteThere is no shortage of medical evidence regarding the dangers of secondhand smoke, ranging from low birthweight and birth defects to respiratory tract infections and lung cancer.  What’s more, researchers have found a possible link between exposure to smoke from others and hearing loss in non smoking teenagers, specifically at low frequencies.

Adolescents who are exposed to secondhand smoke are almost 2% more likely to experience low-frequency hearing loss than those who are not exposed. It is thought that secondhand smoke enters through the ear opening and causes damage.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutritional Examinations Survey. Information from 799, non-smoking teens ages 12 to 19 exposed to toxic secondhand smoke was used. The teens were separated into four groups after their blood was measured for toxic byproducts of nicotine, with group 1 having the least exposure and group 4 having the most exposure.

What was found was that as blood toxicity from nicotine rose, so did hearing loss at low frequencies. “Overall rates of hearing loss ranged from 3.68 percent for bilateral high-frequency hearing loss to 9.55 percent for unilateral low-frequency hearing loss,” ABC news reported. Just slightly over 18 percent of teens were aware that they had hearing loss.

Researchers noted that it was likely that this hearing loss would progress as the subjects aged. Additional concern was noted that the greatest amount of hearing loss occurred at levels that were responsible for clarity of hearing that helps us differentiate between similar sounding words.

Hearing Tests Recommended for Exposed Teens

Findings of this study strongly suggest that teens who are exposed on a regular basis to secondhand smoke should have their hearing tested. Those that smoke around teens should also be aware of the impact that secondhand smoke has on hearing as well as overall health. Future studies are merited to investigate the impact that hearing loss has on such things as academic performance, cognitive and behavioral function and public health costs.

It is unfortunate it that big tobacco knew of issues revolving around smoke and secondhand smoke, but haven’t had to admit it until now.

Additional Sources:

NY Times