The dangers to children of secondhand smoke have long been known. Since 1964, numerous U.S. Surgeon General’s reports have made clear the health issues linked to tobacco and secondhand smoke in children.
According to the American Cancer Society, “children’s growing bodies are especially sensitive to the poisons in secondhand smoke. Asthma, lung infections and ear infections are more common in children who are around smokers.”
Doctors from New York University Langone Medical Center
New research indicates secondhand smoke can cause hearing loss in teens. The research was conducted by team of doctors from New York University Langone Medical Center, in New York City. The findings were reported in the June, 2011 issue of the publication Archives of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery.
The report was authored by Anil K. Lalwani, MD; Ying-Hua Liu, MD, PhD; Michael Weitzman, MD. The physicians are affiliated with the Departments of Otolaryngology, Physiology, Neuroscience, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry, and the Institute for Community Health, all within New York University Langone Medical Center.
The study investigated the hypothesis that secondhand smoke exposure is associated with sensorineural hearing loss in adolescents. Researchers focused on 1,533 adolescents 12 to19 years of age, who did not smoke. The young people were tested for cotinine, a marker for exposure to secondhand smoke.
The research findings
Results indicated that:
- More than half of the group-799 individuals-had continine levels indicating they had been exposed to secondhand smoke.
- The more cotinine contained in the participant’s blood, the more likely they were to have a hearing loss.
- The group who had the highest concentration of cotinine in their blood had hearing loss at low frequencies.
- The teens with hearing loss were largely unaware of their hearing loss.
Results suggest more research is needed
The researchers stated their findings do not conclusively prove that secondhand smoke causes hearing loss in teens. However, they suggest more research is necessary.
One option: have your teen’s hearing checked
The authors suggest that teens exposed to secondhand smoke be checked periodically for low frequency hearing loss. Hearing tests are most often performed by an audiologist, who uses an audiometer to evaluate an individual’s hearing at different frequencies. Often, audiologists also conduct simple tests to learn if parts of the ear are functioning properly. These tests are usually painless. Oftentimes, major medical insurance will pay for hearing tests.
Where you can learn more
For much more information about the research, visit http://archotol.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/137/7/655.
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