Smoking is already well known for being one of the biggest causes of premature death across the world. It leads to major health problems in individuals, as well as having some serious social and environmental implications. Now, a new study could mean another health concern being added to the long list of side effects associated with smoking: hearing loss.

The new study, which was carried out in Japan, looked at the lifestyle habits and health of over 50,000 workers across the country. Using various sources of data, including annual hearing tests, the researchers looked at the workers ability to detect high frequency and low frequency sounds. They also looked at how this ability changed in those that smoked.

The results of the study show that the smokers were 60% more likely to develop problems hearing high frequency sounds compared with the non smokers. For the low frequency sounds, they were 20% more likely to have hearing problems. During the eight year study, one in ten of the workers who participated developed some level of hearing loss, and the more cigarettes they smoked, the more likely they were to have some type of problem with their hearing.

The authors said: “These results suggest that smoking may be a causal factor for hearing loss, although further research would be required to confirm this.” It was pointed out that although this study shows a strong correlation between hearing loss and smoking, it’s not enough to confirm that smoking is causing the problem. For example, those who smoked were also more likely to work in manual industries, which is known to increase the risk of hearing problems.

Lead scientist Dr Huanhuan Hu, from the National Centre for Global Health and Medicine in Japan, said: “With a large sample size, long follow-up period, and objective assessment of hearing loss, our study provides strong evidence that smoking is an independent risk factor of hearing loss. These results provide strong evidence to support that smoking is a causal factor for hearing loss and emphasise the need for tobacco control to prevent or delay the development of hearing loss.”

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