Exposure to cigarette smoke whether directly, secondhand, or even in utero, can harm your hearing health. Studies show that smokers are up to 60% more likely to develop high- and low-frequency hearing loss over non-smokers. Non-smokers, including children and teens, living with a smoker and being exposed to secondhand smoke are 2-3 times more likely to develop a hearing loss compared to those not exposed at all. Smoking is also linked to vertigo, tinnitus, and dizziness.
The dangerous chemicals in cigarettes smoke can damage both the middle and inner ear components and functions. Nicotine interferes with neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve, which tells your brain which sound it is hearing. Nicotine reduces blood flow to the ear and can cause or worsen tinnitus and vertigo.
Carbon monoxide lowers blood oxygen levels and constricts blood vessels. This can interfere with healthy blood flow to the brain. A lack of blood flow and oxygen could damage multiple inner ear components including the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that translate sound vibrations. Hearing loss occurs when these tiny hair cells are damaged.
Smoking is also linked to an increased risk of ear infections. Smoking irritates the Eustachian tube and lining of the middle ear, harms tissue in the nose and throat, and weakens the immune system. This combination, especially in children, makes a person more susceptible to middle ear infections.
Vaping may seem like a “better” alternative to smoking but in reality they still contain many of the same chemicals, including nicotine and tar, that cigarettes have. Vaping can damage your hearing just as much as cigarettes can.
Hearing loss is permanent and cannot be reversed. If you smoke and are worried about your hearing, book an appointment for a hearing test and make it part of your regular healthcare routine.