Hearing Loss Among Adolescents Linked to Second-Hand Smoke?

A recent study along with sonus complete reviews involving adolescents revealed that being exposed to second-hand smoke can actually lead to a common form of hearing loss known as sensorineural hearing loss or SNHL. While this is probably the most common type of hearing loss, it is not able to be corrected with medications or through surgery.

While it seems that smoking has decreased among society compared to how it was, say, 30 years ago, the majority of children in our country are still being exposed to second-hand smoke. For those who do not know exactly what ‘second-hand smoke’ is, it is a correlation between smoke that is exhaled by smokers themselves and the smoke that is actually released from the product that is burning tobacco. Believe it or not, there are at least 7,000 different chemicals found in second-hand smoke. Of course, not all of them are considered to be necessarily harmful, but at least 250 of these chemicals are known to be dangerous. Statistically, nearly 60% of all children in the United States are exposed to this type of smoke, which is part of the reason why second-hand smoke is considered to be a serious health-related issue.

This recent study was conducted by a research team from New York University Langone Medical Center along with Anil, Lalwani. The researchers analyzed the risk factors involved in sensorineural hearing loss among a total of 1,533 teens between the ages of 12 and 19 who are non-smokers. These participants had also been involved in a survey between the years of 2005 and 2006 called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The results of this recent study can be found in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Based upon the teen’s responses to the survey questions pertaining to their medical history, current health, exposure to second-hand smoke, any known symptoms of hearing loss, along with several hearing tests, and a blood test to detect cotinine which is a by-product of nicotine when it breaks down, the researchers discovered that the teens that had admitted being exposed to second-hand smoke clearly had more hearing loss in both high and low-frequency areas when compared to teens who had little to no second-hand smoke exposure.

Additionally, nearly 80% of these teens were completely unaware that their hearing had been compromised. Blood tests that were conducted showed that the higher the level of cotinine found, the higher the loss of hearing was as well.

Generally, hearing loss is categorized by which particular region of the auditory system is involved. Sensorineural hearing loss in particular occurs when there is damage directly to the inner ear or damage to the nerves which connect the inner ear to the brain. While sensorineural hearing loss is considered to be the more common, it is also considered to be permanent hearing loss which therefore cannot be corrected by any means.

There are several things that can cause sensorineural hearing loss such as a malformation of the inner ear itself, a head trauma, medications that are known to be harmful to the auditory system, genetics, aging, and exposure to loud noise. Individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss have a reduction in their ability to hear faint noises and if voices are very loud, they may actually seem unclear or muffled.

Various studies have confirmed that second-hand smoke directly can cause health problems in children. Another recent study that appears in the Pediatrics Journal explains that exposure to second-hand smoke can also increase the risk of neurobehavioral disorders such as ADHD and certain conduct disorders. By developing neurobehavioral disorders, children may have learning disabilities as well.

In an analysis of information from a total of 192 different countries, researchers found that in the year 2004, 40% of children were exposed to second-hand smoke. This led to a total of 603,000 deaths which could be contributed to second-hand smoke exposure, 28% of which involved the deaths of children. This report can be found in the January 2011 issue of Lancet. The largest health issues were reported to be directly linked to infections of the lower respiratory system in children less than 5 years old which accounts for 6 million cases and children with asthma which accounts for 651,000 cases.

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