Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

In bad news for smokers, particularly those who love music, a new study has shown that cigarette smoking may cause hearing loss as the smoke is likely to damage cells in the inner ear.

However, smokers can decrease their risk of hearing impairment by quitting smoking, according to the research team, which included researchers from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo.

“Back in the old days, smoking cigarettes in jazz bars while listening to music was one of the coolest styles,” said Tetsuya Mizoue, a member of the team and head of the department of epidemiology and prevention of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine. “To enjoy the high-quality sound of music, I recommend that smokers give up smoking.”

The study was conducted on 50,195 male and female employees of eight companies that have their headquarters in the Kanto region, and elsewhere.

The participants, aged between 20 and 64, were asked to submit health check data from 2008 through 2010 including their smoking status, smoking intensity and smoking cessation followed by the team’s follow-up survey on the participants’ health checkups until spring 2016 to see whether hearing loss had occurred.

During the follow-up period, about 3,500 individuals developed unilateral high-frequency hearing loss and about 1,600 developed unilateral low-frequency hearing loss.

After statistically compensating for factors that likely affected the loss of hearing such as age, history of diabetes, hypertension and other medical conditions, the team analyzed the data and found that the more individuals smoke, the greater their risk of hearing impairment.

Those who smoke 21 or more cigarettes a day are 1.7 times more likely to suffer high-frequency hearing impairment and 1.4 times greater low-frequency hearing loss than those who never smoked.

Meanwhile those who had quit smoking for more than five years at the time of the survey run relatively the same risk of hearing impairment as people who have never smoked.

A decline in function of the inner ear cells is believed to be caused by the toxicity of nicotine and the disruption of blood flow.

Widely spreading electronic cigarettes are also predicted to raise the possibility of hearing loss as they contain nicotine that enhances the risk in a decline of hearing.

It has also been pointed out that hearing loss during middle age boosts the risk of dementia.

The results of the study were published in the online U.S. scientific journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research on March 14.