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No Tobacco Day = No Hearing Loss Day

Yes, it's Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial kick-off of the summer season, but it's also No Tobacco Day, May 31st – a day designed to increase awareness of the danger of smoking. (Like we needed more dangers. Geeze, tobacco is a killer. The end.)

No Tobacco Day is sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and this year, WHO chose, as it's theme, increasing awareness of how tobacco companies advertise to women – a target market for which cigarettes are actually designed to make women appear more "sophisticated." (Yeah, but you smell like an ash tray.)

Women and Smoking

The World Health Organization shines a spotlight on the advertising companies that market tobacco products to women around the world. The fact is, women only make up 20% of all of those smokers out there, but in many parts of the world, big tobacco doesn't see this as a problem. They see it as an opportunity.

In many third world countries, big tobacco has its sights set on women – usually living in poorer sections of the cities. Women with less education and less knowledge about the harmful – yes, deadly – effects of tobacco use.

So WHO is pushing advertising targeted at women this year in it's annual No Tobacco Day.

Kids and Smoking

Kids are also being targeted by advertising that makes smoking look cool and hip, even though there's libraries filled with studies that clearly show that tobacco use damages lungs, the heart and even the hearing mechanism that we all take for granted each day. This stuff is poison and that's not speculation. It's scientific fact so stop fooling yourself.

More and more kids are starting to smoke at earlier ages, this despite an on-going anti-tobacco campaign taught in schools beginning in the primary grades. Schools are giving kids the information. Unfortunately, not all of those kids are listening.

Check this out:

  • 7% of teen-aged girls smoke tobacco – a number that's way too high
  • 12% of teen boys smoke, again a number that's too high, yet still increasing each year.
  • In some countries in which smoking cigarettes is still considered acceptable, teen girls smoke almost as frequently as teen boys.
  • Tobacco sellers are targeting these susceptible targets knowing that once you have a nicotine addiction you have a lifetime consumer – even if that lifetime is shortened by the product you sell.
  • The U.S. Surgeon General has mandated that health warnings be placed on cigarette packs. And in many places, cigarettes aren't even allowed. No smoking in bars or restaurants in New York. In fact, smokers are shunned in the U.S., forced to stand out in the blizzard to get their nicotine fix.

The WHO has designated May 31, 2010 as NO TOBACCO DAY – a day when even the heaviest smoker can try life without nicotine and the health risks associated with smoking.

WHO suggests that tobacco could kill up to 1 billion (with a b) people in this century. The best defense is good education and constantly pounding home the message that tobacco is poison. It'll lower life's quality. It may shorten life significantly and yes, it's hard to quit but people just like you do it every day.

And it puts persons at risk for developing hearing loss.

Tobacco Use Causes Hearing Loss

smoking hearing loss
Stop smoking for your health and your hearing

Numerous studies within the last few years have demonstrated persons who smoke are more likely to develop hearing loss with age versus those who do not smoke. In fact, findings from a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest smokers have a 70 percent greater risk of developing hearing loss than those who do not smoke.

Another study, carried out by the University of Calgary in Canada, reported that children exposed to second-hand smoke in their homes during the first three years of life are at almost double the risk for frequent or persistent middle ear infections. The risk of recurrent ear infections increases to 85 percent if both parents smoke.

In addition multiple studies have demonstrated that the risk of hearing loss increases with the number of cigarettes smoked, as well as with the intensity and the duration of exposure to smoke.

So how exactly does smoking cause hearing loss? According to a report on AudiologyOnline from Western Michigan University, authored by Dr. Bharti Katbamna there is no direct evidence for the mechanisms of damage to the auditory system associated with cigarette smoke exposure". However research does suggest there may be three different mechanisms that play a role in the development of hearing loss due to smoke exposure:

  • The first mechanism may be related to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) - nicotine and carbon monoxide may actually deplete oxygen levels to the cochlea, the portion of the inner ear that houses tiny hair-like sensory receptors. The cochlea is bathed in fluids and blood supply and like any part of the body, if oxygen is depleted tissue damage can occur.
  • The second mechanism is related to the interaction between nicotine and neurotransmitters in the auditory (hearing) nerve. Neurotransmitters essentially function as chemical messengers and if impaired they would no longer be able to properly tell the brain what is occurring along the hearing nerve.
  • Lastly the third suspected mechanism is related to adolescent smoking. Studies have shown mechanisms within the hearing nerve are not fully developed until late adolescents; thus the hearing nerve pathways are particularly susceptible to damage, if environmental toxins like nicotine are introduced during the early adolescent years.

Synergies of Hearing Loss and Tobacco Use

Like anything in life, smoking can act "synergistically" with other risk factors of hearing loss. For example, according to Dr. Katbamna a 2005 study "showed that smoking, age, and noise exposure together pose a greater risk for hearing loss than each factor alone. They showed that non-exposed nonsmokers in the 20-40 years age category were least likely to experience hearing loss, whereas smokers over 40 years with a history of noise exposure were most likely to show a hearing loss. They suggested that these synergistic effects were most consistent with biological interactions."

In plain English, when you factor in smoking with hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise and the age factor, well, you have a potent combination that may well lead to serious and irreversible hearing loss.

An example may be working in a loud environment, like a factory, which can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Well, if you're looking to collect a pension in the next few years, you work on a noisy assembly line AND you smoke, these factors have a cumulative effective on hearing loss – a synergistic effect that greatly increases the likelihood of experiencing hearing loss later in life.

Whether you live in the country or the city, it's a noisy world. And when you add tobacco to your risk factors for hearing loss, you just make a bad situation worse.

You may not be able to prevent all the noises in your life but you can kick butt and stop using tobacco. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared May 31, 2010 as NO TOBACCO DAY (no hearing loss day as well in our eyes).

How will you celebrate?

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