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Secondhand Smoke Linked to Hearing Loss in Teens

Teenagers with nicotine by-products in their blood show higher rates of hearing loss. It isn't proof, but it's worrisome.

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We’re not blowing smoke.
Photo via cigarettesflavours

By Kirwan Gray

07/19/11

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Can you hear me now? If you’re a teenager growing up in a home full of smokers, maybe not. A study of more than 1,500 kids between 12 and 19 showed that those with detectable blood levels of cotinine, a nicotine breakdown product, showed more hearing loss at both the high and low frequency ends of the spectrum. None of the study subjects was a smoker. The results, published in Archives of Otolaryngology, didn’t offer definitive proof that secondhand smoke causes hearing loss. But the authors write: "Should the findings of this study be corroborated, adolescents exposed to secondhand smoke may be at risk for hearing loss, and prudent policy may dictate that they undergo hearing screening…. In homes where there is active smoking, parents and caretakers should be made aware of risks to hearing in their children." The Los Angeles Times speculated that “exposure to secondhand smoke is known to raise the risk of ear infections, which may lead to hearing loss. It's also possible that toxins in smoke may cause some dysfunction in the Eustachian tubes.”

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