By Robert Preidt
For the study, researchers analyzed eight years of health data on more than 50,000 people in Japan.
After accounting for work-related noise exposure and other hearing loss risk factors, the investigators found that smokers were 1.2 to 1.6 times more likely to suffer hearing loss than people who never smoked.
"With a large sample size, long follow-up period and objective assessment of hearing loss, our study provides strong evidence that smoking is an independent risk factor of hearing loss," said study lead author Dr. Huanhuan Hu, from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, in Japan.
And the more people smoked, the greater their risk of both high- and low-frequency hearing loss.
The increased risk of hearing loss associated with smoking did decline within five years after a person quit smoking, the researchers reported.
The study was published March 14 in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
"These results provide strong evidence to support that smoking is a causal factor for hearing loss, and emphasize the need for tobacco control to prevent or delay the development of hearing loss," Hu added in a journal news release.
But the study could not prove that smoking caused hearing loss; it only showed an association.