While common sense indicates children exposed to secondhand smoke can develop respiratory issues, what may not be obvious is that the same type of exposure can create hearing loss in children. This article will discuss recent findings about the connection between secondhand smoke and loss of hearing in children and teens.
Conductive Hearing Loss
When discussing the loss of hearing, most people think of high or low frequency hearing loss that comes naturally with aging, or can be accelerated with long term noise level exposure. However, another main cause of loss of hearing is called Conductive Hearing Loss. This form of hearing impairment is due to a lesion in the external auditory canal or middle ear, or the presence of fluid. Under these conditions, sound cannot reach the inner ear. The loss of hearing experienced is the equivalent of 24 decibels, the same as when wearing earplugs.
Recent studies ent doctor near mehave shown that children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop middle ear infections. This type of infection causes swelling which prevents the fluid in the middle ear from naturally escaping. The result is a painful infection. The reason this type of infection can be caused by secondhand smoke is that the smoke inhibits the child's developing immune system so it cannot ward off such infections in the way that a healthy child can. What is worse is that children under the age of six generally cannot take OTC (over-the-counter) remedies for infections, so a doctor must be seen.
While most typesof conductive hearing damage will be returned to normal after the infection has been terminated, long-term exposure to repeated infections can cause lasting damage to the ears, especially if left untreated.
Teens and Hearing Loss
While it is a concern about teenagers losing high and low frequency hearing to in-ear listening devices, in general, the risk is low. For example, an iPod used above 80 decibels (considered dangerous levels) is only found in 7-24% of the overall users of the device. However, of all teens tested for high or low frequency hearing loss, those who had exposure to secondhand smoke had much higher rates of hearing damage than their peers who did not. High and low frequency hearing loss involves the dying off of delicate hair-like cells in the ear that, once gone, never regenerate.
Although 80% of those teens exposed to secondhand smoke who did register as having hearing damage did not realize their hearing was impaired, the fear is as they age and naturally lose their hearing, these teens will experience earlier and more dramatic loss of hearing over the course of their lives.