How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

You’ve probably heard for years that smoking and drinking are harmful to your health. Both of these activities have the potential to have significant health consequences. Heavy drinking puts you at danger of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and damage to your liver and pancreas. At the same time, smoking has been related to cancer and lung disorders, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. 

And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s more. What you may not realize is that both smoking and drinking have an impact on your hearing.

Hearing loss is more common among smokers

Smokers are much more prone than non-smokers to get hearing loss. Passive smokers, or those who are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke, have a higher chance of hearing loss. Furthermore, the more you smoke, the worse your hearing will become. You could be at risk even if you don’t smoke. Do you share your home with a smoker?

How does smoking cause hearing loss?

While this may appear to be an unusual connection, it is pretty simple. It’s all about the nicotine, after all. This is an ototoxic drug, meaning it harms your ears. 

Nicotine reduces blood flow and depletes oxygen levels in your cells. The fragile cells in your inner ear are particularly vulnerable to oxygen deprivation, and they can suffocate and die as a result. Your hearing range begins to deteriorate, and you find yourself straining to grasp what is being said or keep up with discussions.

According to a study of over 150,000 smoking and non-smoking adults, the more you smoke or are exposed to those who smoke, the more likely you are to acquire hearing loss. Smokers were nearly 15% more likely than non-smokers to experience hearing loss! One exciting discovery was that ex-smokers were less likely than non-smokers to develop hearing loss. This is likely related to people who quit smoking tend to adopt several other lifestyle adjustments to become healthy, lowering their risk of hearing loss.

Hearing loss and alcohol

No one can disagree that excessive alcohol intake is unhealthy for you, and now we know that it is also bad for your hearing. 

The University of Ulm in Germany researched heavy drinkers and social drinkers to link alcohol and hearing loss. They discovered that drinking alcohol damages the central auditory cortex in the brain, which is responsible for interpreting the noises picked up by the ear. Because these cells cannot be regenerated after being injured or destroyed, even moderate and sociable drinkers will begin to notice the consequences of alcohol intake on their hearing. The more you drink, the worse your hearing goes, just like smoking.

From temporary to permanent hearing loss

Have you ever had a night of heavy drinking result in temporary hearing loss? This is pretty common, and it’s usually caused by a combination of drinking and listening to loud music in the bar. Temporary hearing loss may go away in the morning, but you don’t know how much damage is being done to your brain. 

It’s only a matter of time before your temporary hearing loss becomes permanent and you notice gaps in your ability to hear. 

Healthy habits lead to healthy hearing

What’s the most effective strategy to halt the progression of this hearing loss? A lifestyle change. If you smoke a lot or drink a lot, it’s time to look at your lifestyle and make some changes to protect your health and keep your hearing keen. There’s nothing wrong with a drink now and then, but if you continue to smoke and drink, you’ll end up harming your body and your hearing.

Are you already dealing with hearing loss? Our modern hearing devices come with various programs and settings that will restore the noises you’ve been missing while smoothly integrating them into your daily routine, no matter what your lifestyle or demands are. Contact us today to talk about your choices for improving your hearing!