How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

I Can't Hear You! Confused Woman Keeping Hand Near Ear To Listen

Some factors that cause health problems are out of our control. For instance, our hereditary traits have a strong effect on current and future health. Some basic features of our bodily composition can cause more issues for wellbeing, as well, including height, gender, etc. Beyond these unmodifiable factors, there are some things we can do to affect our health outcomes.

Two of the classic lifestyle traits that have the strongest effect on our wellbeing are diet and exercise. Those who have better nutrition tend to have stronger cardiovascular systems, creating a chain reaction of better outcomes throughout the body. Exercise puts gentle stress on many systems of the body, making them better able to withstand stressors from disease or injury, should they come along.

In addition to these well-known practices of good health, there are two habits that have a strong negative effect on health: smoking and excessive drinking. These two behaviors can weaken the systems of the body, making them susceptible to a wide range of health problems. Despite this fact about alcohol consumption, the results of a recent study were more complicated when it came to the effects of drinking on hearing ability.

Let’s look at the study to better understand the connection.

A Relationship between Smoking & Hearing

Researchers at the University of Manchester, University of Wisconsin, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and the University of Nottingham came together to investigate these relationships. They used the UK Biobank Resource to identify 164,770 adults aged between 40 and 69 years who completed a speech-in-noise hearing test.

With these test results in hand, they were able to correlate reports from the participants on smoking and drinking. The scholars were interested in two types of smoking: direct and passive. Several studies have already determined that those who are smokers have higher rates of hearing loss, and those who smoke more tend to have worse outcomes on hearing tests. This study supported those existing findings.

The connection between passive smoking and results on passive hearing loss was clear, as well. – those Those who lived or worked in environments with second-hand smoke had worse outcomes on hearing tests, as well. – but the The results of alcohol consumption were quite surprising. Lifetime “teetotalers” who did not drink at all actually had worse outcomes on their hearing tests than those who drank some alcohol. That association was similar across three levels of alcohol consumption: light, moderate, and heavy. The researchers were convinced of these results such that they said that alcohol consumption had a “protective effect” when it came to hearing loss.

Limitations and Confounding Factors

Although the raw numbers paint one picture, there are other factors to consider when it comes to hearing loss. The scholars noted that those who reported that alcohol was normally “taken with meals” might be describing a middle- to upper-class habit of drinking wine with dinner. If that were the case, future studies would need to control for class status in addition to alcohol consumption. Those who have these class statuses tend to have better access to health care and are less likely to work in very loud conditions. Confounding factors like these are essential to determine risk factors when it comes to lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and drinking.

Preventing Hearing Loss

If you are concerned with preventing hearing loss, there are many steps you can take to decrease your odds of losing hearing ability. Good nutrition has shown a strong positive relationship with better hearing. Not only is it important to get the right caloric balance in your diet, but specific nutrients are also important for hearing health.

Physical activity is also a preventative measure. Those who develop healthy respiratory and cardiovascular systems through exercise are better able to send oxygenated blood through the body, including to the ears. When the ears get what they need to function, they are less likely to incur hearing loss.

Quitting smoking is another clear way to prevent hearing loss, and the relationship with respiratory and cardiovascular wellbeing might explain that connection. The jury is still out when it comes to alcohol consumption, but many other studies warn against excessive consumption. Keeping your alcohol consumption in check is an important way to promote general health and wellbeing.

If you are ready to get started on your journey to better hearing health, we’re here to help! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Kenneth H. Wood, BC-HIS

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