Tobacco is an unexpected foe of a music lover

Like many posts of our corporate blog, this one has a connection with the events of my life. The fact is that I relatively recently quit smoking and noticed that I began to hear much better, catching in some works (especially classical ones) nuances that I had not seen before. Meanwhile, I never complained of hearing and did not consider myself deaf. I was ready to write off everything on the placebo effect and the euphoria of getting rid of the terrible nicotine addiction, but I suddenly realized that my smoking really affected my hearing not in the best way.

Under the cat a certain amount of information about the effect of smoking (tobacco) on the ability to perceive sound waves, as well as the results of the most significant studies with quite convincing statistics.

Briefly about personal experience

A few years ago, I checked the frequency range that my ears could hear and was unpleasantly surprised that in my 30 years I had limited the high frequency threshold to 14,500 Hz, whereas 16 kHz is considered the norm. With the low frequency range, everything was better, while I did not notice any other problems. The otolaryngologists also did not think that something was wrong with my hearing.

2 weeks after my last cigarette (the smoking experience was 15 years), while listening to the Vivaldi oratorio “Triumphant Judith”, I suddenly noticed several surprising moments for myself. The piece sounded different: both vocals and especially instrumental parts were heard more clearly. Honestly, I almost believed in the effect of replacing the interconnect cable, which I changed occasionally. Even put the old one to compare. It was not a cable.

Most of the changes noted in the work concerned the high-frequency spectrum. I decided once again to measure the range of frequencies that my ear perceives. Imagine my surprise when I found that I clearly heard 15,800 and even 16,100 Hz. Rechecked with another test signal, the result was the same.

Faced with a mass of pleasant surprises concerning the state of health after giving up tobacco, I decided to find out if these auditory “miracles” are connected with my victorious war against nicodemon. I was right, with a very high probability it was in my smoking.

The pathophysiology of the effects of smoking on hearing

So, the first thing I was able to find out about the effect of cigarettes on hearing is the depressing (neurotoxic) effect of nicotine on the receptors of the whole chain of sound perception. Accordingly, about one hour after each cigarette you smoked, nicotine and other neurotoxic substances impair hearing by inhibiting the receptors of the inner ear, the auditory nerve and the temporal lobes, delaying (at the level of synaptic connections) the transmission of nerve impulses.

But, in fairness, I note that it is this episodic effect of nicotine and other active tobacco smoke products that is insignificant, short-lived, completely reversible and almost imperceptible. It is doubtful that anyone noticed a hearing loss after the first, second or tenth cigarette you smoked. However, regular exposure to these neurogenic substances may lead to more lasting effects.

The angiogenic properties of tobacco smoke products are a much more serious factor in smoking that adversely affects hearing. In addition to a huge number of other problems associated with the effect on blood vessels, tobacco smoke causes a disturbance of vasomotor reactions and blood supply to the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex (responsible for hearing). Trophic tissues of the middle and inner ear deteriorate.

This leads to a variety of effects that directly and indirectly affect hearing:

It is also known that smoking causes vasoconstriction, the effect of which is aggravated by oxygen starvation and an increase in blood viscosity. All these factors can ultimately lead to a stroke, and the intermediate effect will be persistent hearing impairment (among others).

A significant contribution to hearing impairment in a smoker is made by immune factors. The overwhelming majority of nicotine addicts are steadfastly depressed immunity, which, together with vascular disorders, almost guarantees the development of infectious lesions of the middle and inner ear. Also otolaryngologists write that similar phenomena are found in passive smokers, most often in family members of nicotine-dependent people.


This part of the post is an overview of the results of the most demonstrative research. The, that managed find, me several stunned. Smoking audiophiles after reading the following can be bad and scary.

One of the most famous and major studies on this topic was conducted by the Medical Corps of the Israel Defense Forces in 2002. It was attended by 13,000 patients in the age range from 20 to 68 years. The subjects were divided into 2 groups (people with normal hearing and people with disabilities in at least one ear). After audiograms, people who suffered hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise were also excluded from the study.

The study recorded age, sex, smoking status and the number of cigarettes smoked daily. It was found that current and former smokers younger than 35 years old are at risk of any hearing problems by 43%. In smokers and ex-smokers over 35 years old by 17%. In addition, the study noted that the prevalence of hearing problems provided regular smoking was not dependent on the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

In Finland, research on the effect of smoking on hearing loss (deterioration) was conducted by scientists Starck J, Toppila E, Pyykko I. The volunteers were employees of shipyards and forestry. The interdependence of the effect on hearing loss of arterial hypertension, industrial noise and smoking was revealed. Researchers have noted that the combination of these three factors is the most pernicious, and smoking contributes to impairment and hearing loss more than the other two. The results were published in Acta Otolaryngol in 1999.

The curious data was obtained by Japanese scientists Nakanishi N, Okamoto M, Nakamura K, Suzuki K, Tatara K, which were published in the study “Cigarette and risk for hearing impairment: a longitudinal study in Japanese office workers.” In 2000. A study conducted among office workers showed that smoking causes hearing loss at low and high frequencies. Moreover, scientists have identified a “dose-dependent” relationship for high frequencies, i.e. the severity of hearing loss, depending on the average daily number of cigarettes smoked. The experiment lasted for five years and became one of the most detailed regarding the effect of smoking on hearing.

Also known are data from a Japanese study conducted by Mizoue T, Miyamoto T, Shimizu T (2003), in which 4,624 workers from one of the steel mills in the Land of the Rising Sun took part. This work showed that smoking can lead to loss and impairment of hearing at high frequencies. Production noise aggravated this problem. I believe that I just had a case with the HF range, noted by Japanese researchers.

The list of studies can be continued for a long time. They were held in the USA, Holland, Belgium and other countries (it was not possible to find domestic works on this topic, but I do not exclude that they exist, they simply gather dust on the shelf of a library and were not published online). A Malaysian study showed that smoking has a similar effect on aging to hearing, which is indirectly confirmed by the above-mentioned works of Japanese scientists.

Opinions otolaryngologists and other researchers differ in only one. So Eric Fransen (Erik Fransen) from the University of Antwerp (study of 2008) is convinced that hearing loss from smoking is irreversible, Japanese and Israeli scientists, by contrast, hold the view that if you quit smoking, you can expand the range of audible frequencies and cope with some problems.


From the above, it becomes clear that smoking has a detrimental effect on hearing, and the miracles of “audiophile enlightenment” in my case were due to the fact that I quit smoking. Based on my own experience, I rather lean towards the opinion of Japanese and Israeli experts who argue that hearing impairment due to smoking is reversible. I hope that for some of our readers this post will be one of the arguments in favor of getting rid of nicotine addiction. Quit smoking and enjoy good music on high-quality equipment. I would appreciate participation in the survey below.

For the preparation of the material of the post used the materials of the following studies:

Sharabi Y, Reshef, H. I, Burstein M, Eldad A. Cigarette and Hearing Loss: United States (YAPEIS) database. Israel Medical Association Journal. 2002 Dec; 4 (12): 1118.20.

Mingo T, Miyamoto T, Shimizu T. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2003 Jan; 60 (1): 56.9.

Nakanishi N, Okamoto M, Nakamura K, Suzuki K, Tataram. Journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2000 Nov; 42 (11): 1045.9.

Starck J, Toppila E, Pyykko I. Exposure to occupational noise. Acta Otolaryngol. 1999; 119 (3): 302.5.

Barone JA, Peters JM, Garabrant DH, Bernstein L, Krebsbach R. Smoking. Journal Occupational Medicine. 1987 Sep; 29 (9): 741.5.

Noorhassim I, Rampal KG. Multiplicative impairment. American Journal Otolaryngology. 1998 Jul, Aug; 19 (4): 240.3.

ruickshanks KJ, Klein R, Klein BE, et al. Cigarette smoking and hearing loss study. Jama. 1998 Jun 3; 279 (21): 1715.9.

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