Passive smoking linked to hearing loss16th November 2010
Before you next light up a cigarette, ask how you may be affecting the long-term hearing of those who breathe in your passive smoke, experts say.
While some people make the decision to smoke, those who inhale their smoke passively have less control over the damage tobacco smoke can do to their health, including their hearing.
Passive smokers are at an increased risk of hearing loss, according to a new study in the journal Tobacco Control.
Previous studies have already established that smokers put their own hearing at risk.
In the study, a team from the University of Miami and Florida International University looked at the hearing test results of more than 3,000 US adults, some of whom smoked, some of whom were exposed passively to tobacco smoke, and some of whom had never smoked.
Researchers found that hearing damage can be caused by both active and passive smoking, possibly because tobacco smoke disrupts blood flow in the capillaries of the ear.
The ear, starved of oxygen delivered by the blood, could see a build-up of toxic waste, which could eventually lead to hearing damage.
It is possible to differentiate this sort of damage from that cause to the ear by excessive noise or ageing.
Lead author David Fabry the threshold for damage to the ear was very low, and the only safe level of exposure to passive smoke was no exposure.
Volunteers had their hearing tested over range of frequencies; low, mid and high.
Their blood was then checked for cotinine, which signals the presence of nicotine in the body.
People exposed to second-hand smoke were far more likely to have poorer hearing than others, the researchers concluded.
Such people might even struggle to follow a conversation in the presence of background noise.
Hearing loss across all frequencies was likely to be affected by about a third in passive smokers, the study found.
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