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Monday, July 18, 2011

'I can't hear you!' Secondhand smoke linked to hearing loss

It may not just be loud rock music that is hurting teens’ hearing. According to a report in the July issue of Archives of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, released today, exposure to secondhand smoke has been linked to increased risk of hearing loss in adolescents.

Dr. Anil K. Lalwani and others from New York University’s Langone Medical Center studied 1,533 youths from 12 to 19 years old, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2006, according to a press release.

They found that those exposed to secondhand smoke had a greater risk of low- and high-frequency hearing loss than those who were not exposed, although more than 80 percent of them did not know it, according to the release.

Secondhand smoke has already been connected to low birth weights, respiratory infections and inner-ear infections. “Secondhand smoke may also have the potential to have an impact on auditory development, leading to sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL),” the authors said in the release.

Hearing loss, in turn, can result in problems with child development. “Adolescents who are exposed to (secondhand smoke) may need to be more closely monitored for hearing loss,” the researchers said in the statement. “In addition, they should be educated about risk factors for hearing loss, such as recreational or occupational noise exposure and SHS.”

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