If you are a smoker, you are most likely no stranger to the reasons people give you to quit. Many of us started smoking early in life, and now it is hard to quit due to its addictive nature. After years of smoking, many people report that it is hard to know what the addiction is and what has become part of your lifestyle and identity. Smoking has so many risks to your health, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. If you needed one more reason to quit, new research has illuminated how smoking and drinking affect hearing as well.
Similarly, while an alcoholic beverage every now and then can help you to relax and decompress from a busy day, too much can have devastating effects on our health, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. For many people, alcohol is addictive, and once you start, it can be hard to stop. New research shows that this habit could also contribute to hearing loss!
The Impact of Smoking on Our Hearing Health
How could smoking affect your hearing? We know it can have an impact on our lungs from inhalation, however this can affect every aspect of our health, including our inner ears. Oxygen from our lungs provides the support all our cells and body require to absorb blood and nutrients. When oxygen supply is depleted, its effects are systematic, eventually affecting how we hear.
In a recent study published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research journal, researchers compared smokers with non-smokers to determine the effects of smoking on hearing health. They found that smokers were 40% more likely to have hearing loss! Even more alarming, the more that someone smoked the higher the risk was. In fact, those who smoked 20 cigarettes (one pack) or more per day were 70% more likely to have impaired hearing!
The Effects of Excessive Drinking and Hearing Loss
Excessive alcohol consumption not only damages your digestive system and heart, but can have an impact on how well you hear and process sounds. This is because excessive alcohol use has a significant impact on cognitive functioning. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that “Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works. Alcohol makes it harder for the brain areas controlling balance, memory, speech, and judgment to do their jobs, resulting in a higher likelihood of injuries and other negative outcomes.” In addition, regular and excessive alcohol can affect the central auditory cortex of the brain, the area where sounds are processed. Even if you haven’t sustained damage to your inner ear, you may have issues following speech and with comprehension—especially in noisy environments where multiple conversations are occurring at once.
Some chemicals are classified as ototoxic, meaning that they damage the inner ear and inhibit hearing. So one way how smoking and drinking affect hearing loss is by limiting the amount of oxygen in the blood that the cells of the inner ear require to survive. Both nicotine, the primary ingredient in tobacco products, and alcohol impact the bloodstream, lowering blood oxygen levels, and limiting circulation. For those addicted to smoking and drinking the pattern becomes chronic, meaning regular depletion of cell health due to decreased levels of oxygen. This can cause irreparable cell damage impacting how we hear.
If you have been smoking or drinking for years, it has likely become part of your life which can be hard to part with. However, as we age, the times to change and focus on self-care become more dire as we are less able to regenerate and years of abuse to our body’s health build-up.
If you are noticing recently that you are struggling to hear more and more, it may be clear how it is impacting your ability to connect to the people in your life. It may impact your standing at work and ability to earn, as well as increase the risk for falls and accidents leading to further health complications. If you are ready to take a stand for your hearing and overall health, then we are always here to help. Aside from offering resources to help you quit smoking and drinking, we can help you find the best solution to help you hear better for years to come. Contact us today to schedule a hearing exam and find out what life is like with improved hearing now.