Smoking While Pregnant Linked to Kids' Hearing Loss
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Children exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb are more likely to suffer from hearing loss in their teen years, a new study finds. After examining data from 1,000 children—ages 12 to 15—from the 2005-2006 US National Health Examination Survey, researchers discovered that 16% of teens surveyed had been exposed to smoke while in the womb. These teens were three times more likely to have one-sided, low-frequency hearing loss compared to those who were not exposed to cigarette smoke. The level of hearing impairment associated with fetal exposure to tobacco smoke was "relatively modest" at less than three decibels, wrote a research team led by Dr. Michael Weitzman, of the NYU School of Medicine in New York City. "However, an almost three-fold increased odds of unilateral hearing loss in adolescents with prenatal smoke exposure is worrisome.” Though the study could not prove a direct causal link between smoking during pregnancy and offsprings' hearing loss, hearing experts agree that the findings are not surprising. "This is an effect which has been described previously for the adult population, so it is logical that it would also apply to children of smokers," says Dr. Ian Storper, director of otology at the Center for Hearing and Balance Disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “The study provides more reason to eliminate tobacco usage across our population and to continue research in the area to understand the mechanism of damage to the auditory system."