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Hearing loss linked to passive smoking

Posted Dec 03 2010 4:09pm

Research has shown that people who are exposed to the second-hand smoke from others' cigarettes are at increased risk of hearing loss.

Doctors already know that people who smoke can damage their hearing and this latest study in the journal Tobacco Control, involving more than 3,000 US adults, suggests the same is true of passive smoking.

Experts believe tobacco smoke may disrupt blood flow in the small vessels of the ear, which could starve the organ of oxygen and lead to a build up of toxic waste, causing damage.

Tests on the study measured range of hearing over low, mid and high noise frequencies. To assess passive smoke exposure, the volunteers had their blood checked for a byproduct of nicotine, called cotinine, which is made when the body comes into contact with tobacco smoke.

This revealed that people exposed to second-hand smoke were far more likely to have poorer hearing than others and increased their risk of hearing loss across all sound frequencies by about a third.

Dr Ralph Holme, head of biomedical research at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) , said: "We already knew from our own research that regular active smoking is a significant risk factor leading to hearing loss and this new study is important as it highlights the increased risks posed by passive smoking too.

"Hearing loss can often be very frustrating and lead to social isolation, if not quickly addressed. Before you next light up a cigarette, consider how it could impact not only on your own long-term hearing but your friends' and relatives' too."

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