Cigarette Smoking, Passive Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Hearing Loss

  • Piers DawesEmail author
  • Karen J. Cruickshanks
  • David R. Moore
  • Mark Edmondson-Jones
  • Abby McCormack
  • Heather Fortnum
  • Kevin J. Munro
Research Article


The objective of this large population-based cross-sectional study was to evaluate the association between smoking, passive smoking, alcohol consumption, and hearing loss. The study sample was a subset of the UK Biobank Resource, 164,770 adults aged between 40 and 69 years who completed a speech-in-noise hearing test (the Digit Triplet Test). Hearing loss was defined as speech recognition in noise in the better ear poorer than 2 standard deviations below the mean with reference to young normally hearing listeners. In multiple logistic regression controlling for potential confounders, current smokers were more likely to have a hearing loss than non-smokers (odds ratio (OR) 1.15, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 1.09–1.21). Among non-smokers, those who reported passive exposure to tobacco smoke were more likely to have a hearing loss (OR 1.28, 95 %CI 1.21–1.35). For both smoking and passive smoking, there was evidence of a dose-response effect. Those who consume alcohol were less likely to have a hearing loss than lifetime teetotalers. The association was similar across three levels of consumption by volume of alcohol (lightest 25 %, OR 0.61, 95 %CI 0.57–0.65; middle 50 % OR 0.62, 95 %CI 0.58–0.66; heaviest 25 % OR 0.65, 95 %CI 0.61–0.70). The results suggest that lifestyle factors may moderate the risk of hearing loss. Alcohol consumption was associated with a protective effect. Quitting or reducing smoking and avoiding passive exposure to tobacco smoke may also help prevent or moderate age-related hearing loss.

Key words

age-related hearing loss presbycusis smoking passive smoking alcohol 



Thank you to Dr. David Nondahl for statistical advice. DRM was supported by the intramural program of the Medical Research Council [grant U135097130]. KJC was supported by R37AG11099, R01AG021917, and an unrestricted grant from Research to Prevent Blindness. The Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit is funded by the National Institute for Health Research. This paper presents independent research funded in part by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, or the Department of Health. This research was facilitated by the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre. This research was conducted using the UK Biobank Resource.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Association for Research in Otolaryngology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Piers Dawes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karen J. Cruickshanks
    • 2
    • 3
  • David R. Moore
    • 4
  • Mark Edmondson-Jones
    • 5
    • 6
  • Abby McCormack
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Heather Fortnum
    • 5
    • 6
  • Kevin J. Munro
    • 1
    • 8
  1. 1.HCD Office, School of Psychological Sciences, Ellen Wilkinson BuildingUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Department of Population Health Sciences, School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  4. 4.Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterCincinnatiUSA
  5. 5.Otology and Hearing group, Division of Clinical Neuroscience, School of MedicineUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  6. 6.NIHR—Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research UnitUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  7. 7.Medical Research CouncilInstitute of Hearing ResearchNottinghamUK
  8. 8.Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation TrustManchester Academic Health Science CentreManchesterUK

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