In the United States, approximately 60% of children are exposed to secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke prenatally or during childhood can cause various health problems among children, such as low birth weight and respiratory infections. Children that are exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke are more likely to have ear infections.
Secondhand smoke may have the potential to impact a child’s auditory development, leading to sensorineural hearing loss. A new study has recently associated secondhand smoke to hearing loss in children. Over a thousand teenagers were given hearing tests in the study and were also tested for cotinine, which is produced when nicotine is metabolized, as a marker for exposure to tobacco smoke. Each participant was interviewed about his or her health status and family medical history, exposure to secondhand smoke, and self-recognition of hearing impairment.
Compared with teens who were not exposed to secondhand smoke, those who were exposed exhibited higher rates or low- and high-frequency hearing loss. Exposed adolescents were 1.83 times more likely to experience a hearing impairment. The higher level of cotinine detected in the participants, the greater the hearing loss among the teenager. The results from the study demonstrated that more than 80% of participants with hearing loss did not realize they had a hearing impairment. Adolescents that are exposed to secondhand smoke may need to be monitored more closely for hearing loss. Hearing loss in children can greatly impact their performance in school and cause them to fall behind in their class.
Hearing loss in young children is known to interfere with not only speech and language development, but also cognitive function, academic progress, and social interaction. There is no known reason why tobacco smoke causes hearing loss in smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke is known to constrict and eventually weakens blood vessels which may be compromising the blood flow to the inner ear. Call Live Better Hearing to have your child tested for any hearing loss at 301-977-6317.