A new study published in the JAMA Otolaryngology journal states that prenatal smoking has been linked to causing hearing loss in adolescents. Smoking while pregnant has always been highly frowned upon for the negative consequences it causes to children including premature birth, underdevelopment, low weight and asthma. Previously, recurrent ear infections in children were also linked to prenatal smoking and exposure to second hand smoke. If anything, these new findings should reinforce the efforts towards getting pregnant and all smokers in general to quit smoking.
Professor Michael Weitzman of the New York University’s School of Medicine authored the study explaining that cigarettes smoking could be the worst epidemic created by man. The study looked into 964 adolescents aged between 12 to 15 who took part in the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination survey. 16% of the parents to children in this study group confirmed that their children had been exposed to cigarette smoke in the prenatal phase. The exposed kids in this group exhibited mild hearing loss, while the unexposed kids had better hearing by 3 decibels compared to those who had prenatal smoke exposure.
Columbia University’s Professor Anil Lalwani, who also contributed to the study, explained that most mothers in the particular sample group who smoked while pregnant had quit during their first trimester. He added that tobacco smoke exposures even in the briefest of encounters had negative effects. The study also looked into tobacco smoke exposure from other household smokers and this still contributed to the negative effects to the unborn child.
The study did not show a mechanism of how hearing damage presents itself in children while still in the womb and neither did they establish the long-term effects from this exposure. Weitzman explained that it could possibly be caused by the decreased oxygenation and blood flow as well as high carbon monoxide levels present within a pregnant smoker. However, the study showed that the hearing problems could lead to the development of several other issues including behavioral and cognitive issues. This would affect the child’s social skills and academics which translates to lower IQs and school dropout.
A study showed that the hearing problems could lead to the development of several other issues including behavioral and cognitive issues. This would affect the child’s social skills and academics which translates to lower IQs and school dropout.
Weitzman explained that the study also considered aspects such as blasting music and listening through headphones as well as attending loud concerts. Although these factors are known to influence the amount of hearing loss, the study still proved that prenatal smoking was linked to hearing loss in teens. Weitzman also explained that the hearing loss they determined was caused by prenatal smoking was moderate, but the study is a discovery of a new negative effect of smoking which is the correlation between hearing loss and tobacco smoke exposure.
Weitzman also added that in as much as research and study into the effects of cigarette smoking is important, it is also crucial to put in more effort towards screenings, preventative care and future treatments. He said that this would help identify hearing problems in children earlier to possibly prevent further damage.