Prenatal Smoke Exposure Could Harm Children’s Auditory System

June 23, 2013
No Smoking Sign

New findings demonstrate that in utero exposure to tobacco smoke could be harmful to the auditory system, according to a study published recently Online First by JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

Columbia University Medical Center hearing specialist Anil K. Lalwani, MD, professor and vice chair for research, Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery, was first author of this study.

JAMA posted a news release about these findings, in which the research is described as examining:

“… data for 964 adolescents (ages 12 to 15 years) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006 to determine whether exposure to prenatal tobacco smoke was associated with sensorineural hearing loss in adolescents.

Parents confirmed prenatal smoke exposure in about 16 percent of the 964 adolescents. Prenatal smoke exposure was associated with higher pure-tone hearing thresholds and an almost three-fold increase in the odds of unilateral low-frequency hearing loss, according to study results.

… Exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) is a public health problem and exposure to tobacco smoke from in utero to adulthood is associated with a wide variety of health problems…”

As Dr. Lalwani, who is also an otolaryngologist specializing in hearing at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, noted, “In addition to any immediate toxicity, exposure to toxins in the womb leads to metabolic and developmental alterations that may have life-long consequences. In this case, exposure to tobacco toxin during early development of the fetus has – possibly lifelong – detrimental consequences for hearing.”

“In other words, pregnant mothers should be very careful to avoid exposure to cigarette smoke as, among other problems, it has the potential to cause hearing damage in their children,” said Dr. Lalwani.

Please click here to read the JAMA Otolaryngology news release about these findings.