Pediatric hearing loss can be caused by a number of factors, including:
- genetic issues
- prenatal problems
- premature birth
- otitis media (ear infection)
- physical trauma
- exposure to loud noises
Researchers from Japan looked into another possible cause – cigarette smoke. The study, published in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology looked at the data of more than 50,000 children born between 2004 and 2010. They were specifically looking at the development of hearing loss in these children by the age of three.
The children’s exposure to smoke was broken down as follows:
- 8 percent were exposed to smoke during their mother’s pregnancies
- 2 percent were exposed to smoke by their mother’s past smoking habits
- 9 percent were exposed to secondhand smoke at four months old
- 9 percent were exposed to smoke during pregnancy and at four months old.
Hearing loss was measured with a whispered hearing test and the amount of smoke the children were exposed to was determined by a questionnaire.
The results of the study were what your Green Valley audiologist would call not at all surprising. At the age of three, the prevalence of hearing impairment in the children in the study was 4.6 percent. Compared to the children who were not exposed to tobacco smoke, the results are as follows:
- A 26 percent increase in the risk of hearing impairment for those only exposed to smoke from their mother’s past smoking habits
- A 30 percent increase in the risk of hearing impairment for those exposed to secondhand smoke
- A 68 percent increase in the risk of hearing impairments for those exposed to smoking during their mother’s pregnancy
While the results of this study cannot prove that cigarette smoke leads to hearing loss, there is a definite correlation between exposure to cigarette smoke and a hearing impairment in children.
So what can you do with this information? The results of this study help support the medical recommendation that smoking during and after pregnancy can be harmful for children. The senior author of the paper, Dr. Koji Kawakami, of Kyoto University in Japan, said in a statement “The findings remind us of the need to continue strengthening interventions to prevent smoking before and during pregnancy and exposure to secondhand smoke in children.”
In addition to hearing loss, secondhand smoke can increase the risk of ear infections in children. The more ear infections a child has, the higher their risk is of developing hearing problems. This is especially troubling as hearing loss can impact a child’s ability to learn.
When caught early, hearing loss can be easily treated, often through the use of a hearing aid. To learn more about treating hearing loss, contact your Green Valley audiologist today.