The annual Great American Smokeout is a day for encouraging smokers to give up their habit. Among the many data points available on the dangers of smoking ― including that more than 480,000 people die from it each year ―is the risk smoking poses to hearing health. This danger extends to those exposed to secondhand smoke, as well.
An ototoxic chemical cocktail
Ototoxicity refers to elements that are hazardous to the delicate structures that make up your ears, especially the tiny hair cells in your inner ear that transmit sound impulses to your brain. As ototoxicity destroys them your hearing ability declines. Most cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, and e-cigs are loaded with ototoxic chemicals. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Carbon monoxide
- Hydrogen cyanide
Some of these chemicals are directly hazardous to your ears. So, whenever you draw smoke into your throat and exhale it through your mouth or nose, your Eustachian tube fills with toxic substances that flow directly into your ears. Other chemicals, like carbon monoxide, cause blood vessel constriction throughout your body ―starting in your inner ear where the highly-sensitive hair cells depend on a steady flow of oxygen-rich blood to survive.
Anyone who is around you when you exhale smoke on a regular basis is also exposed to these chemicals, putting their hearing and general health at risk. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke, increasing their likelihood of ear infections and middle ear fluid buildup. Teens have been found to experience a higher risk of hearing loss at the lower frequencies that is directly related to how often they are exposed to secondhand smoke.
It’s about quality of life, not just quantity
It’s no secret that smoking can shave years off your life, but beyond that, it can reduce the quality of the years you have. By diminishing your sense of hearing, smoking robs you of the ability to enjoy music, laughter, and the sounds of your loved ones’ voices. Don’t let it. Seek help to quit smoking before it damages your hearing and overall health permanently.