The purpose of this site is to assist in preventing tobacco-induced hearing loss by citing medical journal data on the role of tobacco. Let's start by seeing what medical researchers have found.

           Over a century ago, the "association between excessive smoking and deafness was noted by de LaCharrière in 1875."—S. L. Shapiro, MD, "Are You Smoking More But Hearing Less?" 43 Eye Ear Nose Throat Monthly 96-100 (1964).

Dr. Shapiro adds that "Delie in 1904 was the first to study the matter at some length. He gave details . . . and expressed the opion that damage . . . was due to stimulation . . . by tobacco. . . . nicotine causes contraction of peripheral arteries. Moyer and Maddock (1940) and Roth (1946), showed that this effect was proportional to the amount of nicotine, and also that it was the nicotine element in cigarettes which was responsible for the vasoconstriction."

Wm. A. Alcott, M.D., had said in 1836 that tobacco "injures the hearing. This is so common a consequence of snuff-taking, that I need but to mention it."—Wm. A. Alcott, M.D., The Use of Tobacco: Its Physical, Intellectual, and Moral Effects on The Human System (1836), p 17. Prof. John Hinds, The Use of Tobacco (1882), p 102, provided similar data.

           Tobacco smoke is radioactive and contains toxic chemicals, and produces toxic chemicals emissions far above the safe and legal limits. Harm by tobacco pushers is foreseeable and thus is by definition intentional. Smoking is widespread.

B. W. Chase in 1878 expressed concern about hearing loss from tobacco in these words:
"The cavities of the head are all more or less connected, and what excites the membrane of one will excite to some extent, the membrane of all. Thus we have good reason for believing that the use of Tobacco [toxic chemicals] may impair the organ of hearing."—Tobacco: Its Physical, Mental, Moral and Social Influences, by Rev. B. W. Chase, A.M. (New York: Wm. B. Mucklow Pub Co, 1878), pp 43-44.

Dr. Reuben D. Mussey's Health: Its Friends and Its Foes (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1862), p 126, cited a case example of tobacco-induced deafness.

           Nonsmokers do not per se suffer a decline in hearing ability with aging, say S. Rosen, M. Bergman, D. Plester, A. El-Mofty, and M. H. Satti, "Presbycusis Study of A Relatively Noise-free Population in the Sudan," 71 Ann Otol Rhinol 727-742 (1962); and Jarvis JF, and van Heerden HG, "The Acuity of Hearing in the Kalahari Bushman: A Pilot Study," 81 J Laryngol Otol 63-68 (1967).

           In contrast, smokers are often found to have disproportionate hearing loss, says, e.g., Weston TET, "Presbycusis: A Clinical Study," 78 J Laryngol Otol 273-286 (1964).

           William Weiss, M.D., "How Smoking Affects Hearing," 98 Medical Times (#11) 84-89 (November 1970) found that men who smoked more than one pack a day had worse hearing thresholds at 250 - 500 Hz than nonsmokers or "light" smokers. He explained that "Considerable research has associated smoking . . . with certain diseases, including those of the respiatory tract. Since the middle ear connects with the upper respiratory tract through the eustachian tube, it is reasonable to consider [potential harm as a result]."

           The National Center of Health Statistics, "Data from the National Health Survey: Cigarette Smoking and Health Characteristics, July 1964-June 1965," 34 Vital Health Stat 10 11-14 (1967), says that men who smoked more than two packs a day reported disproportionately more hearing loss than nonsmokers.

           Samuel Zelman, M.D., "Correlation of Smoking History With Hearing Loss," 223 J Am Med Ass'n (8) 920 (19 Feb 1973), says that "Smoking reduces blood supply by (1) vasospasm induced by nicotine, (2) atherosclotic narrowing of vessels, and (3) thrombotic occlusions." "At all measured frequencies the percentage of loss was greater for smokers . . . greatest at the higher frequencies."

           Abraham, B. Siegelaub, M.S., Gary D. Friedman, M.D., Kedar Adour, M.D., and Carl C. Seltzer, M.D., "Hearing Loss in Adults: Relation to Age, Sex, Exposure to Loud Noise, and Cigarette Smoking," 29 Arch Environ Health 107-109 (Aug 1974) (current smokers had more hearing loss at 4,000 Hz).

"'The hearing loss is proportional to how much you smoke and your body mass index (BMI),' said [researcher Erik] Fransen. 'It starts getting worse once you have smoked regularly for more than one year,'" says "Smoking Reduces Blood Flow, Threatens Hearing" (17 June 2008), as reported in the Journal of the Association for Research into Otolaryngology (10 June 2008).

           It is already known that passive smoking impairs nonsmokers' hearing. Here is an example. "Exposure to cigarette smoke was associated with a 4.9 times increase in the prevalence of hearing deficits and 75% of the cases of hearing loss were statistically attributable to exposure to cigarette smoke. . . . [involuntary] exposure to cigarette smoke is a cause of middle ear effusion and hearing loss in children."—R. A. Lyons, "Passive Smoking and Hearing Loss in Infants," 85 Irish Med J (#3) 111-112 (Sep 1992). See also Joel S. McCartney, Peter A. Fried; and Barbara Watkinson, "Central Auditory Processing in School-age Children Prenatally Exposed to Cigarette Smoke," 16 Neurotoxicol Teratol (#3) 269-276 (1994).

           Karen J. Cruickshanks, PhD; Ronald Klein, MD; Barbara E. K. Klein, MD; Terry L. Wiley, PhD; David M. Nondahl, MS; Ted S. Tweed, MS, "Cigarette Smoking and Hearing Loss," 279 J Am Med Ass'n 1715-1719 (3 June 1998), say that "Clinical studies have suggested that cigarette smoking may be associated with hearing loss, a common condition affecting older adults."

           They found that "After adjusting for other factors, current smokers were 1.69 times as likely to have a hearing loss as nonsmokers (95% confidence interval, 1.31-2.17). This relationship remained for those without a history of occupational noise exposure and in analyses excluding those with non-age-related hearing loss. There was weak evidence of a dose-response effect. Nonsmoking participants who lived with a smoker were more likely to have a hearing loss than those who were not exposed to a household member who smoked (odds ratio, 1.94; 95% confidence interval, 1.01-3.74)."

           They conclude that "These data suggest that environmental exposures may play a role in age-related hearing loss. If longitudinal studies confirm these findings, modification of smoking habits may prevent or delay age-related declines in hearing sensitivity."

           It is "common knowledge" about some individuals being sensitive to nicotine, foreseeably leading to ototoxicity, and a manifestation as tinnitus, says A. Glorig, "Cigarettes and Tinnitus," 192 J Am Med Assn 269 (1965).

           This long known fact was called attention to anew in 2014, by the article "Smokers, passive smokers more likely to suffer hearing loss, study shows" (Manchester University, 6 June 2014): "Smokers and [involuntary] smokers more likely to suffer hearing loss. . . . Current smokers have a 15.1% higher odds of hearing loss than non-smokers [involuntary] smoking also increased the likelihood of hearing loss by 28%."

           Worse and impacting the next generation, there "is an association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and altered auditory-based behavior in offspring that extends from birth to at least early adolescence."--Peter Fried, Ltr, "Cigarette Smoke Exposure and Hearing Loss." 260 J Am Med Assn (#11) 963 (16 Sep 1998).

           For background on the dangers to children from in-home smoking, see, e.g., D. P. Strachan and D. G. Cook, "Health effects of passive smoking. 4. Parental smoking, middle ear disease and adenotonsillectomy in children," 53 Thorax 50-56 (1998). See also references to other tobacco-related harms, e.g., "glue ear" for which tobacco is a risk factor, e.g., by

  • Dr. Colin Brown, "Glue Ear and Otitis Media - A Patient's Guide"

  • Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P., "Secondhand Smoke and Children's Health"
  •            For an overview on tobacco's role in hearing loss, see Michael Mintz, "Smoking: What the Surgeon General Does Not Tell You," 15 Hearing Health: The Consumer Guide on Hearing Loss (#2) pp 40-43 (March/April 1999), "smokers carry an alarming 70% greater risk of hearing loss."

               The "why" may involve cigarettes' toxic chemicals effects on antioxidative mechanisms or on the vasculature supplying the auditory system, say G. Maffei and P. Miani, "Experimental Tobacco Poisoning: Resultant Structural Modification of the Cochlea and Tuba Acustica," 75 Arch Otolaryngol 386-396 (1962); and S. L. Shapiro, M.D., "Are You Smoking More But Hearing Less?" 43 Eye Ear Nose Throat Monthly 96-100 (1964). Shapiro reported "that nicotine produces vasospasm . . . in small caliber blood vessels including that of the internal ear." Next, "this vasoconstriction [in turn foreseeably] does produce, in a number of people, lesions in the internal ear." He added at p 98, "The hearing impairments in smokers . . . have in my experience been irreversible, arrest of the condition being the most that could be hoped for."

               Dr. Shapiro by 1964 had long been treating patients for smoking-caused hearing loss. He said, "I have for many years made complete abstention from smoking an inflexible rule in treating persons with sensori-neural hearing impairment . . . . At the outset, this attitude dated back to an indelible impression produced by a pharmacologic experiment of student days. Then a drop of nicotine placed on a frog's mesentery was observed to shrivel the vessels to fine threads. In later years, it was confirmed by experience with patients. . . ."

               In addition to that explanation, the adverse effects above described can easily occur for a second reason, the fact that tobacco smoke is quite radioactive, as reported by E. A. Martell, "d-Radiation dose at Bronchial Bifurcations of Smokers from Indoor Exposure to Radon Progeny," 80 Proc Nat'l Acad Sci, U.S.A. 1285-1289 (March 1983), and "Tobacco Radioactivity and Cancer in Smokers," 63 American Scientist 404-412 (July-August 1975), specifically, the fact that "Irradiation of endothelial cells of the artery wall has been shown to render them highly permeable to the passage of red cells," p 410. Smoker's brains foreseeably leak blood, thus cerebral hemmorhages and strokes foreseeably result, and certainly, "lesser" effects such as hearing loss.

              Tobacco (in this brain-effect context) has, you should know, a record of providing an hallucinogenic effect:

    "Certainly, a long literature exists on use of tobacco and its derivatives in [Indian] ceremonial trance induction, witchcraft, divination . . . . Native use of tobacco parallels that of other hallucinogenic substances . . . The amounts of harman and norharman in cigarette smoke are about 10-20 mcg. per cigarette. This is about 40 to 100 times greater than that found in the tobacco leaf, indicating that pyrosynthesis occurs in the leaves during the burning . . . . harmine in relatively small doses crosses the blood-brain barrier and causes changes in the neural transmission in the visual system."—Oscar Janiger, M.D., and Marlene Dobkin De Rios, M.D., "Nicotiana an Hallucinogen?," 30 Econ Bot 149-151 (April-June 1976).

              Pre-Columbian Indians used tobacco for its hallucinogenic effect, says Jan G. R. Elferink, "The Narcotic and Hallucinogenic Use of Tobacco in Pre-Columbian Central America," 7 Journal of Ethnopharmacology 111-122 (1983); E. H. Poindexter, and R. D. Carpenter, "Isolation of Harman and Norharman from Tobacco and Cigarette Smoke," 1 Phytochemistry 215-221 (1962); Murphree, Henry B. (Ed.), "The Effects of Nicotine and Smoking on the Central Nervous System," 142 Annals of the N Y Acad of Sciences 1-133 (1967); and Oscar Janiger and Mariene Dobkin de Rios, "Suggestive Hallucinogenic Proeprties of Tobacco," 4 Medical Anthropolgy Newsletter (#4) 6-11 (1973).

              In 1882, Meta Lander, The Tobacco Problem, 6th ed. (Boston: Lee and Shepard Pub, 1882), pp 141-161, published an overview of smoking's adverse effects including on the brain. The bottom line is, in the words of Dr. L. E. Keeley, Keeley Institute, Dwight, Illinois: "Tobacco . . . lays the foundation of nearly every nervous [mental] disorder now common to the people of America," p 150. She cited the example of Transvaal President S. P. Kruger going deaf from smoking, p 383.

              "Nicotine is one of the most powerful of the 'nerve poisons' known. Its virulence is compared to that of prussic acid. . . . . It seems to destroy life not by attacking a few but all of the functions essential to it. . . . A significant indication of this is that there is no subsrance which can counteract its effects. . . . the use of tobacco in even the smallest amount impairs the functional action of the liver on the blood passing through it, and that the abnormal state of the blood thus caused will manifest itself by disturbance in the brain." "Thus the nerves are under the constant influence of the drug and much injury to the system results."—C. W. Lyman, 48 New York Medical Journal 262-265 (8 Sep 1888).

               As a matter of medical background, "the pharmacology of nicotine has been studied in considerable detail since Langley [19th century] first showed that nicotine stimulated then paralysed ganglion cells."—A. K. Armitage, G. H. Hall, C. F. Morrison, 217 Nature 331-334 (27 Jan 1968), referencing J. N. Langley, W. L. Dickinson, 46 Proc Roy Soc (1889).

               "Original research on the physiologic effects of carbon monoxide was completed in the 19th century." "The smoker of cigarettes is constantly exposed to levels of carbon monoxide in the range of 500 to 1,500 parts per million when he inhales the cigarette smoke."—G. H. Miller, 72 J Indiana St Med Ass'n (12) 903-905 (Dec 1979). "The action of carbonic oxide" was thus long known, e.g., "Autopsies have revealed large foci of softening in the brain, hæmorrhages into the meninges, and capillary apoplexies in the brain substance."—George W. Jacoby, 50 New York Med J 172-174 (17 Aug 1889).

              The massive quantities of carbon monoxide (500-1500 ppm) result in an impaired oxygen supply to the brain, i.e., "cerebral anoxia," cell by cell, year after year, and when to any cell, "the oxygen supply is cut off, then damage to neurones occurs after a few minutes. Some neurones die."—Anthony Hopkins, Epilepsy: the facts (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1981).

              In 1897, Iowa banned cigarette manufacture and sale. Tennessee banned cigarette selling. In 1898, the Supreme Court of Tennesseee upheld the constitutionality of the law and took judicial notice of tobacco's adverse effect on the brain. The decision (at 101 Tenn 563; 48 SW 305; 70 Am St Rep 703) was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, in Austin v State of Tennessee, 179 US 343; 21 S Ct 132; 45 L Ed 224 (19 Nov 1900).

    By 1907, there was "a full . . . knowledge of the effects of tobacco on the nervous system. . . . A variety of substances have been found in tobacco aside from nicotine. Some of these are pyridin, picolin, tulidin, parvolin, collodin, rubidin, varidin; also carbolic acid and marsh gas." The result is that tobacco "registers a permanent and definite impression in nervous structures when it is used for months or years." "Tobacco is a powerful depressant to the motor or efferent nerves, acting primarily upon their peripheral filaments. . . . The sympathetic ganglia are first stimulated and then depressed by nicotine. . . . In chronic poisoning there is more or less gastroenteritis of a hemorrhagic nature. Ecchymosis occurs in the pleura and peritioneum. Hyperemia of the lungs, brain and cord is found. . . . Coarse lesions have been found in the brain and spinal cord."—L. Pierce Clark, M.D., 71 Medical Record (#26) 1072-1073 (29 June 1907). The above-cited DSM-III shows the rapidity of obvious symptoms, after a mere "at least several weeks."

               "The toxic influence of excessive nicotine use, such as occurring in cvhronic smokers, has been both clinically and experimentally proven. Besides the cardio-vascular apparatus, it is first of all the nervous system that suffers through nicotine poisoning. Different authors, especially Von Frankl-Hochwart, established the fact that nicotine poisoning may cause impairment of hearing, leading to deafness, vertigo, dizziness, and other symptoms of disturbed vestibular function. . . . . Nicotine poisoning of the inner ear is characterized by certain pathological changes within the nuclei of the cells of the vestibular ganglion of Scarpa."—Otto Glogau, Nicotine Poisoning of the Inner Ear, 33 Laryngoscope (4) 262-266 (April 1923).

               Cigarette smoking leads to suffering, hence to smokers attempting to self-medicate themselves with alcohol. The result is that about 90% of alcoholics are smokers. Due to this tobacco-alcohol link, here is a study with the two factors combined. (Remember, tobacco has toxic ingredients and produces toxic emissions).

               Wherefore, "the occurrence of toxic deafness is well known" in medicine. "The amount of tobacco and alcohol used may be large or small. . . . Normal hearing . . . is present in 59 per cent of the control group and in only 17 per cent of the toxic group. . . . A large percentage . . . . showed an island defect at a frequency of 4,096 vibrations. This was no observed in the control group . . . . There is a general reduction in the perception of high tones and a lowering of the bone-conduction time. In comparison with a control group of the same age, this is shown to be due in part to toxic causes rather than to the usual [aging process]."—Frank D. Carroll, M.D., and Percy E. Ireland, M.D., "Association of Toxic Deafness With Toxic Amblyopia Due to Tobacco and Alcohol," 21 Arch Otolaryng (4) 459-463 (April 1935). See also B. Nizetic and A. Altieri, "La Funzione Auditiva Nell'ambliopia Alcoholico-nicotinica," 44 Acta Otolaryngolica (Stockholm) 525 (1954) (persons with alcohol-tobacco amblyopia had some hearing loss particularly among higher tones).

              In 1909 Michigan banned cigarette manufacture and sale by law (MCL § 750.27, MSA § 28.216) for that reason among others.

               Other tobacco-induced effects also exist, and may be more well-known to the average reader:


               These cigarette effects are easily preventable, simply by enforcement of MCL § 750.27, MSA § 28.216. The public knows none of this. There is near-total media censorship.

              The media's wide-spread censorship of tobacco-facts, to the extreme of printing of gross disinformation, is not new. It has been cited since at least 1930,

  • Charles M. Fillmore, Tobacco Taboo (Indianapolis: Meigs Pub Co, 1930), pp 88-89

  • Lennox Johnston, "Cure of Tobacco-Smoking," 263 The Lancet 480, 482 (6 September 1952)

  • George Seldes, Never Tire of Protesting, (New York: Lyle Stuart Inc, 1968), Chapters 7-10, pp 61-99. (Seldes founded
  • When something is published on the subject, the tobacco taboo goes to the extreme of widespread refusal "even to read any book or article which refers to the harmfulness of tobacco . . . or in any other way exposes the evils of the drug." See Frank L. Wood, M.D., What You Should Know About Tobacco (Wichita, KS: The Wichita Publishing Co, 1944), p 63.

              "It is also of relevance that the absorption of Nicotine through the lungs is extremely rapid and efficient and reaches the brain more rapidly than after intravenous injection. The arm-to-brain circulation time averages 13.5 seconds, whilst the lung-to-brain time is about 7.5 seconds." M. A. H. Russell, 212 The Practitioner 791-800 (June 1974).

              Worse, "some 90% of the nicotine delivered to the lungs goes directly to the brain, and it gets there in only 7 s," "much faster than a heroin rush from a peripheral vein." William A. Check, Ph.D., 247 J Am Med Ass'n (17) 2333-2338 (7 May 1982).

               Remember, Michigan acted to protect its people, with a law MCL § 750.27, MSA § 28.216 that bans cigarettes, but the public does not know that either. Nor that Michigan Governor Engler and staff have been supportive of action to enforce that law, issuing five pertinent memoranda:

    Exec Order 1992-3
    Law Support Letter # 1
    Anti-Cigarette Smuggling Finding
    Law Support Letter # 2
    Governor's Overview

               Smokers tragically do receive as a result of exposure to cigarettes' vast toxic chemicals a disproportionate amount of brain deterioration such as Alzheimers' disease and mental disorder.

               Of course, the preferable solution is a smokers' rights law such as Michigan has, a safe-cigarettes law. Please write to officials urging adoption of such a law state-wide, nation-wide, and worldwide. TCPG advocates this, but offers both alternatives here for your choice.

    Examples of Other Related Subjects

    Suggestions For Further Reading
    Matschke, R. G., "Smoking habits in patients with sudden hearing loss," Acta oto-laryngologica. Supplement (# 476, Hearing in the Aged: The European Concerted Action Project) 69-73 (1991)
    Fried, PA, "Prenatal Exposure to Tobacco and Marijuana: Effects During Pregnancy, Infancy, and Early Childhood," 36 Clin Obstet Gynecol 319-337 (1993)
    "Mom's Smoking Linked to Hearing Defect," 144 Science News (#2) (10 July 1993)
    Cocchiarella, L A; Sharp, D S; Persky, V W, "Hearing Threshold Shifts, White-cell Count and Smoking Status In Working Men," 45 J Soc Occupational Med (Oxford, England) (#4) 179 (1995)
    Virokannas, H; Anttonen, H, "Dose-response Relationship Between Smoking and Impairment of Hearing Acuity in Workers Exposed to Noise," 24 Scandinavian Audiology (#4) 211 (1995)
    Linke, R; Matschke, R G, "Is there a Correlation between Sudden Hearing Loss and Tobacco Smoking?" 77 Laryngo- rhino-otologie (#1) 48 (1998)
    Noorhassim, Ismail; Rampal, Krishna Gopal, "Multiplicative Effect of Smoking and Age on Hearing Impairment," 19 Am J Otolaryngology (#4) 240 (1998)
    "PRIMARY CARE - Smoking cigarettes can damage hearing - JAMA," 66 Modern Med (#8) 11 (1998)
    Ohhira, Shinji; Miyahara, Hiroshi; Fujita, Nobuya; Ueda, Takashi; Yamanaka, Toshiaki; Murai, Takayuki; Yamamoto, Toshihiro; Matsunaga, Takashi, "Influence of Hyperlipidemia and Smoking on Age-related Changes in Caloric Response and Pure-tone Hearing," Acta oto-laryngologica. Supplement (#533) 40 (1998)
    Fried, PA, and Ferruci, L, "Cigarette Smoke Exposure and Hearing Loss," 280 J Am Med Ass'n (#11) 963 (16 Sep 1998)
    Starck, J; Toppila, E; Pyykko, I, "Audiology - Smoking as a Risk Factor in Sensory Neural Hearing Loss Among Workers Exposed to Occupational Noise," 119 Nordisk tidskrift for Acta oto-laryngologica (#3) 302 (1999)
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