How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

Dr. Marina E. Kade Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Treatment

Dr. Marina E. Kade

There are many ways that smoking and drinking can hurt your health. People know that these activities can be harmful to your health. But did you know that smoking and drinking can make it harder for you to hear? Hearing loss is the third most common long-term health problem that older people have today. It makes it harder for a person to take in and understand sounds.

This makes it hard to communicate and do tasks, talk to other people, and participate in daily activities. Hearing loss is a permanent condition, so figuring out what could cause it is the best way to stop it from happening. Researchers have known for a long time that smoking and drinking are bad habits that can be changed to protect hearing health.

Research shows a link between drinking, smoking, and hearing loss.

Several studies have examined how smoking, drinking, and hearing loss are connected. Two recent studies show that smoking and drinking are bad for your hearing health and show that there is a link between the two.

Researchers in Japan studied over 50,000 workers ages 20 to 64 for eight years to find out how smoking affects hearing. In this group, there were smokers, nonsmokers, and people who used to smoke. At the start of the study, these people did not have trouble hearing. Researchers looked at the information from annual health checks, hearing tests, and questionnaires about smoking. Throughout the study, 5,100 people lost their hearing.

When researchers looked at this data, they found that the people who smoked were:

  • 60 percent more likely to lose hearing in high frequencies
  • 20 percent more likely to lose hearing at low frequencies

Another important finding was that the risk of hearing loss increased as the number of cigarettes smoked per day increased.

Another study in 2019 was published in the Journal of Audiology & Otology. In this study, researchers in South Korea looked at how drinking affects the health of the ears. Researchers looked at the results of a national survey with 3,860 people who were 20 years old or older. This information included the results of hearing tests and a questionnaire about how often people drink.

After looking at the data, researchers found that people who said they drank too much were 2.5 times more likely to have hearing loss than those who said they didn’t drink too much.

These studies show that drinking and smoking make hearing loss more likely. But how do these two things change the way we hear?

How drinking and smoking affect hearing health

The outer, middle, and inner ears and the brain all work together to process sound as part of the auditory system. The ear canal, eardrum, auditory ossicles, cochlea, auditory pathways, etc., are all essential parts of the hearing process. They need a healthy blood flow and oxygen to do their essential jobs. Researchers think that the chemicals in cigarettes and alcohol can hurt this process.

Smoking has nicotine and carbon monoxide in it, which can hurt your hearing by:

Lowering the amount of oxygen in the body and narrowing the blood vessels. This includes the blood vessels in the inner ear that keep the thousands of hair cells in the cochlea alive. These hair cells help turn sound waves into electrical signals sent to the brain, where they are processed and given meaning. This lets us understand what we hear.

Disrupt the neurotransmitters that send helpful information to your brain so it can be processed.

The part of the brain that hears and processes sounds is called the auditory cortex. Alcohol can hurt the auditory cortex, and drinking too much can make it smaller and weaken it. The tiny hair cells in the inner ear can also be hurt by alcohol.

Especially when done too much, smoking and drinking can be bad for your health. But it’s important to realize that these are habits you can change, lowering your chances of getting health problems like hearing loss. A straightforward way to put your hearing health first is to drink less alcohol and smoke fewer cigarettes. Doing so can improve your health and wellness as a whole!

If your hearing has changed, you should make an appointment for a hearing test. Reach out to us now!