People who smoke and people who are overweight are at higher risk of age-related hearing loss, according to a study conducted by the University of Antwerp in Belgium.
The study found that people who had smoked regularly for more than 1 year had worse hearing than those who had never smoked, and that the more one smokes (number of years multiplied by the number of packs per day) the greater the severity of hearing loss.
A direct correlation between peoples’ body weight and their hearing loss was also discovered—the greater the body mass index (BMI) among those tested, the greater their likely hearing loss.
Smoking and being overweight have the common effect of decreasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the ear, which damages hearing and may cause hearing loss.
The study was the largest-ever age-related hearing loss study and included 4,083 people 53 to 67 years of age from seven European countries. They were given clinical exams and hearing tests and completed questionnaires about medical history and exposure to environmental risk factors.
The scientists behind the study emphasized that smoking and body weight are just two of several important factors in hearing loss. Exposure to excessive noise is still the primary cause of hearing loss.