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Health Notes: Prenatal exposure to health brings hearing loss

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Prenatal exposure to smoke brings hearing loss

Exposure to tobacco smoke while in the womb can lead to diminished hearing by adolescence, doctors have found in the first study ever to link tobacco use and hearing impairment.

The new research suggests that compounds contained in tobacco smoke cross the placenta and exert harmful effects on the auditory system.

The analysis, conducted by Drs. Michael Weitzman and Anil Lalwani of New York University-Langone School of Medicine in Manhattan, focused on both maternal smoking and tobacco use by other household members.

“This is the first time has produced evidence that the ability to hear can be affected by smoke,” Weitzman said yesterday.

“I think some people would say this adds to the litany of horrible consequences of an epidemic involving a man-made product that began causing serious health effects 110 years ago with the massive sale of tobacco products,” he said.

In the past, doctors have linked low birth weight, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome and recurrent ear infections to both maternal smoking and exposure of the mother to secondhand smoke while pregnant.

Reporting in the journal Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, the team found that smokers’ children were more likely to suffer a loss of hearing audible sounds, such as those that occur during normal speech.

There was also a threefold increase in the odds of low-frequency hearing loss in one ear, according to the research.


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