It’s common knowledge that smoking affects your lungs, making it difficult to go for a run in Eagle Creek Park, but the habit can also impact your hearing, which in turn can harm your communication with loved ones. A recent study published in The American Journal of Medicine reveals that both current and past female smokers are at an increased risk of developing hearing loss.
About the Study
The study, published in May of 2020 and conducted by experts from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School, sought to fill a research gap. While previous studies have demonstrated a higher risk of hearing loss among cigarette smokers, longitudinal data on whether smoking cessation impacts this risk was, and still is, limited.
Researchers examined data from 81,505 women involved in the American Nurse’s Health Study II (1991-2013). 2,760 participants had hearing loss. Of these, 66.5% of participants had never smoked, 22.4% were past smokers, and 11.1% were current smokers.
The group of current smokers trended toward having a higher risk of moderate to severe hearing loss, especially among women with greater pack-years of smoking history. (“Pack-years” refers to the amount an individual has smoked over time, which is calculated by multiplying the number of pack of cigarettes smoked per day (20/pack) by the number of years they had smoked that quantity.)
The same was true for past smokers; however, the risk was lower for those who had quit smoking the longest ago. The drop in risk was most significant within the first 10-14 years of quitting. In other words, those who had quit smoking the longest ago had a risk of hearing loss most similar to those who were never smokers.
Benefits of Quitting Smoking
There are many health benefits to quitting smoking. According to the American Cancer Society:
- 20 minutes after quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate drop.
- A few days after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.
- 2-3 months after quitting, your lung function and circulation improve.
- 1-12 months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease, and your risk of infection is reduced.
- 1-2 years after quitting, your risk of a heart attack drops dramatically.
- 5-10 years after quitting, your risk of developing mouth, throat and larynx cancers is cut in half.
- 10 years after quitting, your risk of developing lung cancer is half of that of a person who still smokes.
- 15 years after quitting, your risk of coronary heart disease is near that of a non-smoker.