There are many causes of hearing loss - congenital (present at birth), infections of the ear, some communicable childhood diseases, and trauma, to mention but a few. In recent years attention was directed to the prevalence of hearing loss in college freshmen and ultimately it was determined that it was due to the loud music they were exposed to. In fact, some consider the number of decibels emanating from bands to reach a stimulus level which at times reach the painful threshold.
Much to my surprise is a new factor in our environment contributing to hearing loss and that is cigarette smoking. The article is entitled "Cigarette Smoking and Hearing Loss; The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study." This article by six authors was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, June 3, 1998, Volume 279, pp. 715-719. What prompted the study was that certain clinical reports were somewhat suggestive of cigarette smoking causing hearing loss: to further evaluate this situation further studies were performed at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. The group consisted of 3,753 adults, age 48 to 92 years. These individuals were subject to extensive hearing evaluation studies and, in addition, a smoking history was evaluated, initially from self reports, and the relationships between the two were evaluated.
The main results were twofold. One, current smokers were 1.69 times as likely to have hearing loss as nonsmokers (95% confidence interval). In addition, non-smoking participants who lived with a smoker were also more likely to have hearing loss than those who were not so exposed. The authors conclude that these data suggest that smoking environmental exposure contributes to age related hearing loss. Further longitudinal studies should be done to further confirm these findings.
The conclusions from the study are easily discernible - stop smoking or, better yet, don't start to smoke in the first place.
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