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Passive smoking linked to hearing loss

Passive smoking linked to hearing loss Dangers of second-hand smoke

People who regularly breathe in second hand tobacco smoke are at an increased risk of hearing loss, new research shows.

Previous studies suggested that both smokers and ex-smokers are more likely to suffer from hearing loss, but little was known about the effect of second-hand smoke on non-smokers' hearing

In this latest study, researchers from the University of Miami and Florida International University tested the hearing of 3307 non-smokers aged between 20 and 69. All were classified as passive smokers due to the amount of a chemical called cotine in their blood. Cotine is a by-product of tobacco smoke.

The tests measured how well each ear could hear pure tones over a range of frequencies, from low to high.

Researchers found that exposure to second-hand smoke, and being an ex-smoker were both associated with hearing loss.

Ex-smokers were significantly more likely to have impaired hearing, as 14 per cent were found to have low to mid frequency hearing loss. And almost half had high frequency hearing loss.

Older men exposed to second-hand smoke and those with diabetes were also significantly more likely to have high frequency hearing loss, said the researchers.

Although the risk of hearing loss was not as strong among those who had never smoked, almost one in 10 had low to mid frequency hearing loss and one in four had high frequency hearing loss.

Researchers said the stronger findings among ex-smokers suggested that continued exposure to second-hand smoke may worsen their condition.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers said: "Although an active smoker is personally responsible for his/her own toxic exposures, involuntary exposures via second-hand smoke may also place never smokers and former smokers at increased risk of hearing loss.

“If this finding is independently confirmed, then hearing loss can be added to the growing list of health consequences associated with exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.”

This article was published on Tue 16 November 2010

Image © EastWest Imaging -

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