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Teenage Hearing Loss Linked to Smoking During Pregnancy

PITTSBURGH, PA | 2013, JULY — A study published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery has uncovered yet another cause of hearing loss: tobacco smoke.

Researchers in the JAMA study tested the hearing of 964 teenagers—16.2% of whom had been exposed to tobacco smoke while still in the womb. While teens whose mothers had not smoked during pregnancy showed normal rates of hearing loss, smoke-exposed youths were nearly three times as likely to have trouble hearing after they turned 12.

“We’re seeing more and more teens with hearing loss,” says Dr. Suzanne Yoder of HearWell Center, “A lot of that comes from environmental factors—listening to loud music or hanging out in noisy environments—but as this study shows, prenatal influences can be equally damaging.”

In light of the JAMA study, Dr. Yoder recommends that mothers who smoked or were exposed to smoke during pregnancy look carefully for signs of hearing loss in their teenage children. “Turning up the TV or radio, asking you to repeat yourself, not hearing you when you call their name—these things can be normal teenage behavior, or they can be signs of long-term hearing damage. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.”

Nearly 15% of U.S. children have low- or high-frequency hearing loss, and 8% of kids under the age of 18 have loss that’s categorized as severe or profound. Hearing tests are a painless, easy way to diagnose hearing loss in children, and early diagnosis can lead to better understanding of speech and better performance in school.

Prevention is another important piece of good hearing health. While it’s difficult—or even impossible—to control hearing loss factors like ear infections, chicken pox, head injuries, and illness, parents can make a difference by limiting their children’s exposure to noise.

“Set a limit on how loud your teen listens to music, and make sure you pack some earplugs if they’re running off to a concert,” says Dr. Yoder “And give yourself an education as well. Talk to your audiologist about how loud is too loud.”

You can learn about protecting your hearing, environmental sound hazards, and more at


HearWell Center is a full-service, independently owned audiology practice proud to be bringing better hearing to the people of Pittsburgh for over 5 years.

Learn more about HearWell Center by visiting our profile.

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