July 25, 2022

How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

Read More
How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

Taking steps to preserve your hearing can have a big impact on preventing hearing loss and increasing your overall health.  The most direct way to protect your hearing is to avoid loud and excessive noise exposure, but other lifestyle factors can play a role in keeping your hearing healthy. Stay informed about what choices in your life will have an effect on your hearing and work to form healthy hearing habits.

Hearing Loss And Circulation

One factor in hearing loss that people are often unaware of is the role blood circulation plays in hearing health. Our auditory system is made of fine and delicate sensing structures – from the small, fragile bones of our middle ear to the attuned hair cells of the inner ear. The entire system depends on adequate circulation and oxygen supply.

When your circulation suffers, it can starve the structures of your auditory system. Many of these structures are so delicate they are unable to recuperate or regenerate themselves once damage has occurred to them. This is thought to be why some medications that impact circulation, as well as certain conditions, such as iron-deficiency anemia have been linked to increased risk of hearing loss. The circulation of blood in our body is also affected by the exercise we get and the substances we ingest, and may hold the key to understanding how cigarettes and alcohol play into our hearing health.

Cigarette Smoke And Your Hearing

Cigarettes have long been known to contribute to a wide range of serious health problems. Increased risk of lung and throat cancer, emphysema, and heart disease are just some of the most deadly consequences of a long-term smoking habit. Now, research has also pointed towards negative effects cigarette smoking can have on your hearing.

Research into smoking has demonstrated that hearing loss risk is elevated by smoking. A World Health Organization study in 2013 found that smoking was responsible for a roughly 60% greater risk of hearing loss. Previous American studies had reported that statistic to be as high as 70%.

Cigarettes may damage hearing by way of the harm they inflict on a smoker’s cardiovascular system. By constricting blood vessels, smoking makes blood circulation more difficult for the body and places stress on the circulatory structures. When adequate blood is unable to reach the auditory system, delicate hair cells can deteriorate and produce permanent hearing loss.

There is some good news. In the United Kingdom a recent study found that people who had quit smoking reduced their elevated risk of hearing loss. Alongside copious evidence that quitting smoking benefits your health in the long and short term, hearing health is yet another added benefit.

Secondhand Smoke And Your Hearing

Almost as bad as a personal smoking habit, prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke can also elevate the risk of hearing loss.  Recent research out of the United Kingdom found that passive exposure to smoke elevated a subject’s risk of hearing loss. For people with 2-9 hours of secondhand smoke exposure per week, risk of hearing loss raised about 28%. Subjects who lived with over 10 hours of passive smoke per week faced a 39% greater chance of hearing loss.

Drinking Alcohol And Your Hearing

Research pertaining to alcohol use and hearing loss show a more nuanced picture. Unlike cigarettes, alcohol does not constrict our blood vessels. In contrast, alcohol makes blood flow easier. Several studies have shown that social and moderate consumption of alcohol may have some benefit for hearing.

A reduced risk of hearing loss of up to 40% has been measured in moderate drinkers compared to lifelong teetotalers. Drinkers also have a slightly reduced risk of hearing loss when compared to recent non-drinkers.

Unfortunately the benefits of a little alcohol to your hearing may be reduced for heavy drinkers. Alcohol can tax the cardiovascular system as well as the hepatic system-organs where blood is processed, which can again lead to circulatory shortcomings in the auditory system. If you drink regularly, make sure you do so in moderation.

Hearing Spa Of Florida

When you want to optimize your hearing health, turn to Hearing Spa. Hearing Spa provides comprehensive auditory testing, as well as hearing aid fitting, programming and repair with two convenient locations in the Sarasota area. If you have hearing concerns or noticed a recent issue with your hearing get the best care possible at Hearing Spa.

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Victoria L. Moore
Lead Audiologist
Read full bio

Dr. Victoria Moore (Vicky) serves as President as well as Lead Audiologist at The Hearing Spa. She moved to the USA from England in 1991 and has been serving the communities of Sarasota and Bradenton for over 20 years. Her independent audiology practice focuses on adult hearing loss, tinnitus management, as well as Cochlear Implant services.


Get in touch