Smoking May Hamper Ear Health

After Ear Surgery, Smokers Are More Likely Than Nonsmokers to Have Ear Complications

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 18, 2007 -- Need another reason to quit smoking? It might help your ears.

New research shows that smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to have complications and worse hearing after surgery to correct chronic problems in their middle ear.

That's according to J. Matthew Conoyer, MD, and colleagues at Vanderbilt University and the Otology Group of Vanderbilt.

They reviewed the medical records of more than 1,100 people who got surgery to fix chronic ear problems at the Otology Group of Vanderbilt in Nashville from 1990 to 2005.

The patients ranged in age from 1-83 (average age: 34). Most patients -- 63% -- were nonsmokers, 21% were current smokers, 5% were former smokers, and smoking status wasn't available for the remaining 11% of the group.

Tobacco can irritate the ears, and the new study suggests that surgery doesn't totally erase those problems.

After ear surgery, current smokers had worse overall hearing than nonsmokers and were more likely to need follow-up ear operations, the study shows.

But quitting smoking -- and staying smoke-free for five years -- erased those differences.

"The hearing results and outcomes return to the same as nonsmokers after five years of smoking cessation," write the researchers.

Their findings were presented today in Washington at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

Of course, the ears aren't the only part of the body that tobacco harms.

Smoking is often linked to lung cancer (though not all lung cancer patients are smokers). Smoking also makes heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and many other health problems more likely.

SOURCES: American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery 2007 Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., Sept. 16-19, 2007. News release, American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

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