That smoking is the biggest cause of illness and premature death is well-known. But new research suggests that it might hurt people in previously unknown ways — such as hearing loss.
Current smokers have a 15.1% higher chance of hearing loss than non-smokers, a Manchester University study found.
The more cigarettes smokers have, and the longer they smoke for, the greater risk to hearing, the study found. But ex-smokers reduce their chance of hearing loss, which researchers speculated might be because they adopt a healthier life style overall.
It is unclear how smoking affects hearing loss, said researchers, but it may be related to heart disease.
"We are not sure if toxins in tobacco smoke affect hearing directly, or whether smoking-related cardiovascular disease causes microvascular changes that impact on hearing, or both," said Piers Dawes, from the Centre for Human Communication and Deafness at The University of Manchester, which led the research.
Passive smokers have an even greater risk of hearing loss than smokers — but that could be because they were only compared with non-smokers, researchers said.
The research was conducted using data from the UK Biobank, a long-term health study that began in 2007 and is following around 500,000 volunteers in the UK. The study — ‘Cigarette smoking, passive smoking, alcohol consumption and hearing loss’ — was published in the Journal of the Association of Otolaryngology on Thursday.