Even for those who take their health seriously, hearing loss is often underestimated. What was once thought of as an ear issue has in recent years been identified as a key factor in the reduced quality of relationships, and chronic emotional issues including depression, anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation? In addition, hearing loss is now been strongly linked to a less active lifestyle, cognitive decline, dementia, and a greater risk of accidents leading to hospitalization. This underestimation may be due in part to insurance companies, many of which still refuse to cover hearing exams and hearing aids. However today we understand that all aspects of our health are connected. This is why it is no surprise that experts are now finding that quitting smoking and lowering blood pressure may improve your chances of avoiding or reducing the risk of hearing loss.
The Dangerous Effects of Smoking
If you smoke, there is a good chance you either are fully aware of the risks or are avoidant the dangerous outcomes. It’s complicated because nicotine, the chemical present in tobacco products is incredibly addictive. Nicotine releases dopamine in the brain causing positive mood-altering changes, despite the harmful effects of smoking. Inhaled smoke delivers nicotine to the brain within 20 seconds, making it more addictive than opioids, alcohol, and cocaine. This has devastating effects on smokers including an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Smoking and Hearing Loss
We collect sound with our ears but listening occurs in the brain. The real job of the ears is to deliver sound to the brain, a process that is interrupted by hearing loss. Tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear called stereocilia are the sole delivery system of audio information from the ears to the brain. Stereocilia rely on a healthy and regular supply of oxygenated blood to stay healthy. The addictive and regular nature of smoking leads to significantly lower levels of oxygen in the blood as well as causing blood vessels to constrict throughout your body, including your inner ear.
Other ways in which smoking puts your hearing at risk include:
- Damage to the Auditory nerve: regular cigarette use puts the auditory nerve at risk- the sensory nerve that transfers auditory information from the cochlea to the brain.
- Chronic Ear Infections: as well as irritating the lining of the Eustachian tube that connects the back of your throat to your middle ear. On average smokers have more ear infections than non-smokers. Chronic infections are another common cause of hearing damage.
- Hyperacusis: Hyperacusis occurs when everyday sounds seem much louder than they should and are believed to be common in tobacco users.
People who smoke regularly are 60% more likely to have hearing loss than non-smokers and even if you don’t smoke but are exposed to secondhand smoke you are still at risk. One recent study found that teenagers who smoke or are exposed to smoke are twice as likely to develop hearing loss.
Smoking and Hypertension
On top of all the risks, smoking poses to your health there are more factors to consider: Hearing loss has been linked to hypertension due to how it can cause blood to overwhelm blood vessels in the ear. When this occurs repeatedly it can accelerate the degeneration of vital hearing organs, causing permanent hearing loss. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, often has no symptoms but is unaddressed and can lead to serious life-threatening complications including heart disease and stroke.
Supporting Healthy Hearing
If you needed one more reason to quit smoking, this is it! If you love the sound of your loved one’s voices, the sounds of music, or even the wind blowing through the trees, protect your hearing by quitting smoking today! When you quit smoking, even 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure will decrease. Circulation will start to improve, and your cells will start receiving more oxygen. After a few hours, your oxygen levels will return to normal. After a couple of days, your sense of taste will also improve, and your sense of smell will be stronger.
Treating Hearing Loss
If you do have hearing loss it’s important to treat it as soon as possible. To discover your treatment options don’t hesitate in contacting us today and schedule a hearing exam.