-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to secondhand smoke
could affect hearing development in children and increase their
risk of hearing loss during adolescence, a new study indicates.
These findings may warrant screenings for hearing loss among
children exposed to secondhand smoke, the researchers warned.
Roughly 60 percent of children in the United States are exposed
to secondhand smoke, reported the study's authors. These children
are at greater risk for certain health problems, from respiratory
infections to behavioral difficulties and otitis media (acute ear
infection). Babies whose mothers smoked when pregnant are also at
greater risk for low birthweight and other problems.
"Secondhand smoke may also have the potential to have an impact on auditory development," something that has significant implications for U.S. public health, the researchers wrote.
In the study, they questioned 1,533 teens about their health
status and family medical history, exposure to secondhand smoke and
their knowledge of whether or not they had a hearing problem. The
teens were also given physicals, which included blood testing for
cotinine (a byproduct of nicotine exposure) and hearing tests.
Teens who had been exposed to secondhand smoke had higher rates
of low- and high-frequency hearing loss than their peers who were
not exposed, researchers found. The study noted that judging by
cotinine levels, the severity of the hearing loss depended on how
much exposure they had had. The study pointed out, however, more
than 80 percent of the teens suffering from hearing loss didn't
even realize they had a problem.
The findings were published in the July issue of the
Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.
Since teenagers are not screened for hearing loss in the absence
of risk factors for the condition, the researchers argued teens
that have been exposed to secondhand smoke should be more closely
monitored for hearing impairment.
The study added that teens should also be educated about risk
factors for hearing loss, such as noise exposure and secondhand
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides
more facts on the effects of
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