JAMA logo A 2010 study outlined the psychiatric effects of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS). More recently, a study conducted by scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City has revealed that exposure to secondhand smoke may result in growing risk of hearing loss among young adults.

Amidst the U.S. children, around 60 percent are exposed to SHS. Initial reports have shown that the aforesaid smoke seems to result in many behavioral and respiratory infections. This finding suggests that secondhand smoke may affect auditory development causing sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).

Anil K. Lalwani, M.D., and colleagues from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City affirmed, “Adolescents who are exposed to SHS may need to be more closely monitored for hearing loss. In addition, they should be educated about risk factors for hearing loss, such as recreational or occupational noise exposure and SHS.”

As part of the study, the investigators examined the risk factors for SNHL inclusive of SHS among adolescents classified by demographic sets. The group comprised of 1,533 individuals aged between 12 to 19 years of age who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2006. Interviews were conducted where participants was questioned about their medical status, family history, exposure to SHS and self-awareness of hearing problems. Additionally, they were made to undergo blood tests for cotinine and certain trials for hearing too.

It was disclosed that teens exposed to SHS supposedly showed greater levels of low and high frequency hearing loss. This did not seem to be the case with teens not exposed to SHS. The overall rate of hearing loss was dependent on the level of cotinine identified in the blood tests. The findings also put forth that above 80% of participants who suffered from hearing loss apparently did not realize their difficulty.

Considering that hearing problems at such a young phase of life can impact the development of individuals in the long run, the analysts believe that the results have prominent implications for public health in the United States. They state that if further tests produce identical outcomes, then SHS could be considered a risk factor for hearing loss.

The study is published the July issue of Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.