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The body consists of cells, organs, and blood vessels that work closely together to sustain us. These systems are interconnected and rely on each other for essential functions and processes. This includes hearing which involves several critical components like blood vessels, good bone health, and sensory cells in order to hear and process sound. Because hearing health is connected to the body’s systems, there are numerous factors that can contribute to hearing loss. This includes smoking and high blood pressure.
Link Between Smoking & Hearing Loss
Research identifies smoking as a risk factor for hearing loss. Studies show that there is a correlation between smoking and an increased risk of experiencing impaired hearing.
This includes a 2019 study published in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research Journal. Researchers studied the impact of smoking on hearing health by evaluating the smoking behavior and hearing capacities of nearly 50,000 people. Participants were between 20-64 years old and were assessed over an 8-year period. Researchers found that compared to nonsmokers, smokers were:
- 60% more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss
- 20% more likely to develop low-frequency hearing loss
These findings reveal that smokers were more than twice as likely than nonsmokers to develop high-frequency hearing loss. Experts suggest a few factors contribute to this significant correlation between smoking and hearing loss. Nicotine, the main ingredient in cigarettes or e-cigarettes, can impact blood oxygen levels. This can restrict blood vessels which causes a slowing down of oxygen flow throughout the body, including the inner ear. The lack of oxygen can damage hair cells in the inner ear. These sensory cells play a critical role in how we hear and process sound.
Hair cells in the inner ear receive sound waves and convert them into electrical signals. These signals travel to the brain via auditory pathways. Specific areas of the brain responsible for speech and language comprehension further process these signals and assign meaning to them. This process allows us to understand what we hear and when it is disrupted, hearing is impaired. Restricted oxygen levels can lead to damaged hair cells, reducing their capacity to process incoming sound waves. This causes the brain to receive less auditory information, producing hearing loss.
High Blood Pressure & Hearing Health
In addition to smoking, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is another factor that can contribute to hearing loss. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly half of adults in the United States (47% or 116 million) have hypertension. Hypertension is a cardiovascular condition that describes higher than normal blood pressure. Blood pressure changes throughout the day and refers to the force of blood against the walls of the arteries which are the major blood vessels in the body. Hypertension occurs when the force of blood exerted against artery walls is too high. This causes the heart to work harder to pump into the arteries to be circulated throughout the body. This can damage blood vessels, cause plaque to build up, impacting blood flow.
Hypertension can have significant consequences on health in several ways. It can contribute to heart disease, stroke, heart failure etc. It can also impact hearing health by contributing to the development of hearing loss. Damaged blood vessels affect blood flow to the ears which is essential for the absorption and processing of sound. Restricted blood flow can affect the bones, sensory cells, and auditory pathways that are charged with absorbing and processing sound waves which causes hearing loss.
Quitting Smoking & Lowering Blood Pressure Supports Hearing Health
You can intervene and practice ways to support your hearing health. You can do this by quitting smoking and integrating additional measures to lower blood pressure. Quitting smoking decreases blood pressure, improving circulation which supports hearing health. You can start by reducing the amount of cigarettes you consume which also benefits hearing health.
In addition to reducing your consumption of cigarettes, there are more ways you can reduce blood pressure. Intriguing the following simple practices can be incredibly beneficial: increasing your physical activity, receiving quality sleep, eating a healthy diet etc. These strategies have numerous benefits including supporting hearing health and wellness.
Contact us today to learn more about how you can protect your hearing health.