How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

Can smoking and drinking affect your hearing? Recent studies show that smoking might be doing more damage than you think, and too many wild Friday nights could be taking their toll on your hearing health.

How Smoking Affects Hearing

You might be surprised to learn that smoking can harm your hearing. You know that smoking is bad for you, causes lung damage, and is linked to far higher rates of cancer. Smoking can also lead to coronary heart disease, increase your risk of stroke, weaken immune system function, and lead to many other health concerns. But what do your lungs have to do with your ears?

A recent study published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research journal compared smokers with non-smokers, and discovered that smokers were 40% more likely to have hearing loss! They experienced high-frequency hearing loss, and were unable to hear high-pitched sounds. This meant they couldn’t hear birds chirping outside, didn’t enjoy music like they used to, and had a harder time understanding the voices of women and children, who have higher pitched voices than men.

Those who smoked the most had the worst hearing, and people who smoked 20 cigarettes or more per day were 70% more likely to have impaired hearing.

Drinking and Hearing Loss

Just like smoking, everyone knows that excessive drinking is bad for your health. A glass of wine with dinner, or a couple beers on a Friday night won’t do you any harm. But overindulgence could be having a lot of negative repercussions.

When it comes to your hearing health, drinking can cause a lot of damage. High alcohol consumption can actually damage your brain, and cause irreparable cell death. Alcohol can affect the central auditory cortex of the brain where sounds are processed. Even if there’s nothing wrong with your ears, your brain isn’t able to process the sound signals and you won’t be able to make sense of the sounds around you.

Drinking can also affect your ears, and a recent study from the University of Ulm in Germany found that along with brain damage, alcohol can also damage the ears, depriving them of oxygen and leading to cell damage.  As with smoking, higher rates of alcohol consumption are linked with greater degrees of hearing loss, so the best way to protect your hearing is to limit your alcohol consumption to safe levels.


Smoking and drinking cause hearing loss by depriving the ears of the oxygen the cells needs to survive. Nicotine and alcohol affect the blood stream, lowering blood oxygen levels, and slowing circulation. By the time blood reaches the ears, oxygen levels are depleted, and the cells in the ear don’t get enough oxygen to function. When this pattern continues, the cells of the ear begin to deteriorate, or even die. When a situation or chemical is toxic to the ears, such as excessive smoking or drinking, it’s known as ototoxicity.

Both smoking and drinking affect your health in a myriad of ways, and create a toxic environment for your ears. If you’re a smoker, or struggle to control your drinking, talk to your doctor about ways to quit so you can safeguard your health as well as your hearing.

When Temporary Hearing Loss Becomes Permanent

You may have experienced episodes of temporary hearing loss when drinking or smoking excessively. You might think the sounds around you are muffled, or feel as is the volume got turned down. You’ll have trouble understanding conversations, and feel like everyone is mumbling. Many people also experience tinnitus during temporary hearing loss, and have a buzzing or ringing sensation in their ears. These episodes might pass in the morning and you’ll forget all about it, but repeated bouts of temporary hearing loss are causing a lot of damage to your ears. It won’t be long before this temporary hearing loss becomes a permanent problem.

Treating Hearing Loss

Have you noticed hearing loss, and are worried that your smoking or drinking may have affected your hearing health? Visit us today at Hearing Aid Associates for a hearing test. We’ll determine your level of hearing loss, and help you find the perfect hearing aid options to fit your lifestyle, hearing needs, and budget.