[tabi] hearing loss and smoking

  • From: "Allison and Chip Orange" <acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 20 Oct 2011 20:21:15 -0400

Hi all,

since all of us have a special interest in preserving our hearing, I thought
you might like to read this short article on an association between smoking
(or second hand smoke) and hearing loss:

Teen Hearing Problems -- It's Not Just About the Loud Music!
Most of us barely pay attention to background noises like engines, fans or
of people talking loudly. That's because most of us have the ability to
block out
those annoying distractions when we want to. But sadly, that's not the case
for a
large group of youngsters whose ability to separate those sounds from what
 want to hear -- for instance, a conversation in a noisy room -- has already
compromised, even at their young ages, because of their exposure to
secondhand smoke.
I was intrigued to learn of the situation, uncovered in a first-of-its-kind
by Anil Lalwani, MD, professor of otolaryngology, pediatrics and physiology
and neuroscience
at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City, so I called
Dr. Lalwani
to hear more. It turns out that, on average, 12- to 19-year-olds who had
been exposed
to secondhand smoke were found to be nearly twice as likely as other
teenagers to
suffer irreversible
sensorineural hearing loss
 (SNHL) in their teen years -- even though that kind of hearing loss
typically tends
to occur among older adults.
About 80% of the teenagers with SNHL had no idea that their hearing had been
But even if damage is mild, it can impair one's ability to function. While
adolescents performed worse across every sound frequency tested, their
scores showed
the most impairment in the mid- to high-frequency levels, which are crucial
for understanding
speech and for pulling any relevant sounds out of the din. Because kids who
always understand what's being said in the classroom are easily distracted,
may be misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or at the
least labeled as troublemakers. And of course, their schoolwork may suffer.
Now Hear This
Dr. Lalwani pointed out that secondhand smoke has already been impacting
those he
calls "innocent bystanders," since it has been linked to a wide range of
other health
issues -- including low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS),
asthma, inner ear infections and behavioral and cognitive problems. "In the
one to two decades," said Dr. Lalwani, "we've seen a huge amount of evidence
about the health consequences of secondhand smoke" -- and now we have to add
loss to that list.
How did he discover this particular effect of secondhand smoke? Dr. Lalwani
and his
colleagues studied data on more than 1,500 12- to 19-year olds selected from
2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which gathered
information from adults and kids around the US. First, the youngsters were
by National Center for Health Statistics personnel in 2005-2006, including
visits to determine family medical history, whether or not smokers lived in
the home
and other demographic information. Then the teens were given extensive
hearing tests.
They were also given blood tests measuring the level of a nicotine-related
 that can objectively tell how much secondhand smoke one has been exposed
Dr. Lalwani's results were compelling -- the higher the teens' levels of
the higher their chances of having SNHL. The cotinine acted as a remarkably
biomarker -- or barometer, if you will -- of the hearing damage. His
findings were
published in a recent issue of
Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery
. The study authors did note that among the drawbacks of the study was that
on noise levels in the homes was not available.
Perhaps the biggest question to be answered now is, how is it that smoke can
people's ability to hear -- especially young people with robust
constitutions? Dr.
Lalwani's study didn't look for the cause, but he has many theories. "We
know smoking
leads to reduced oxygen in the blood, so that may be an issue," he said.
"The ear
is a high-energy-requirement organ. We also know that smoking causes
vascular issues
(blood vessel problems), so a variety of factors could be contributing."
Sound Advice
There is an obvious and surefire answer to this health problem among teens
-- parents
who smoke should stop! Beyond that, Dr. Lalwani hopes that standard newborn
screenings can be expanded to include older kids, since only newborns and
young children
are routinely given hearing tests in the US. "I think it will happen
he said optimistically, "and I think this is part of the evidence that will
it." Until then, if you're a concerned parent, discuss with your child's
whether your child should have the test.

Anil Lalwani, MD, surgeon and researcher, professor of otolaryngology,
and neuroscience, and pediatrics, New York University School of Medicine,
NYU Langone
Medical Center, New York City.

Check out the TABI resource web page at http://acorange.home.comcast.net/TABI
and please make suggestions for new material.

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  • » [tabi] hearing loss and smoking - Allison and Chip Orange