Who knew? Smoking during pregnancy is linked to future hearing loss in children

NEW YORK—It will come as no surprise to anyone that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were found to be more likely to develop hearing loss at an early age than those born to non-smoking mothers. But this finding by researchers at New York University School of Medicine, will give pregnant women one more reason to kick the habit—at the very least for nine months.

Writing June 20 in the online edition of JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, Michael Weitzman, MD, and co-authors reported that young adolescents who were exposed to tobacco smoke while in the womb were three times as likely to have unilateral hearing loss as those who did not have that pre-natal exposure. There was also an increase in their rate of hearing loss in general.

The authors reached their conclusion by analyzing data from almost 1000 children aged 12 to 15 who took part in the 2005-2006 U.S. National Health Examination Survey. They compared hearing loss among the 16% of those young people who had been exposed to tobacco smoke before birth to those who had not.

The authors said that the level of hearing impairment associated with fetal exposure to tobacco smoke was “relatively modest”–less than 3 dB.

While the study could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between a mother’s smoking during pregnancy and the hearing outcome of her child, the results were consistent with previous studies that have found that adults who smoke have more hearing loss than those who abstain.