Indirect exposure to tobacco smoke weakens the immune system of children and increases the risk of morbidity. This indicates that passive smoking can be the leading cause of various infections other than respiratory problems in children.
A recent study has shown that risk of hearing loss is increased in adolescents if they are exposed to second hand smoke (SHS) in childhood or prenatally. Researchers say that SHS has an impact on normal auditory development which leads to what they call sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). These children were found to be more likely to develop recurrent otitis media. The exposure of smoke in childhood and before birth was also linked to many health conditions such as low birth weight, behavioural problems and respiratory infections.
The research team from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City headed by Anil K. Lalwani and comprising of his colleagues studied the risk factors in adolescents for SNHL which included SHS. The participants in the study, aged between 12 and 19, included 1533 individuals for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between 2005 and 2006. The questionnaire posed to them enquired about their current health condition, family medical history, exposure to SHS, and when they noticed any sort of hearing impairment. They were also made to go through blood testing for nicotine exposure and hearing ability tests.
The findings of the research confirmed the hypothesis that SHS has an impact on development of hearing faculty. The adolescents exposed to SHS showed higher rates of hearing loss, for both the low frequency and high frequency sounds. Moreover, the rate of hearing impairment was directly proportional to the level of nicotine exposure detected in the blood tests. It was also found that four-fifths of the participants never realised that they were actually suffering from a hearing impairment problem.
The no. of adolescents exposed to SHS is approximately 60 % of the children in U.S.A. That is why the authors said that these findings have significant implications for public health in their country. Hearing loss early in life can lead to much more serious problems of development and functioning. With such a large proportion of kids exposed to second hand smoke, it gives yet another reason for smokers to stop lighting up. The researchers affirmed that active smokers should be made aware of the risks of hearing loss associated with their children. The smokers can at least take care of their kid’s health if they can’t care enough for their own.
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