A new study has found that tobacco smoke exposure during pregnancy and during infancy is linked to hearing loss in children. While most of us know that smoking during pregnancy carries serious risks with it, including a low birth weight, premature delivery, and respiratory problems with the baby, it is clear that even with all of the research that has been done on smoking during pregnancy, there are still risks that we aren’t fully aware of yet.
And unfortunately, even if mothers are able to stop smoking during their pregnancies or stop smoking before they conceive, their babies may still be exposed to dangerous smoke secondhand. If family members in the household or caregivers smoke around a child, that exposure can cause permanent health damage, including, as a new study has found, hearing loss.
The study, which comes out of Japan, found that smoke exposure during pregnancy and early infancy actually more than doubled the risk of hearing loss in children. The Japanese study was a comprehensive one, looking at 50,734 children born between 2004 and 2010 in Kobe City, Japan. Overall, the study found that children who were exposed to tobacco during their mothers’ pregnancies were a staggering 68 percent more likely to have hearing loss. And children who were exposed to secondhand smoke (meaning they inhaled it) were 30 percent more likely to have hearing loss.
Researchers in the study verified their findings by testing the children involved through hearing screens at 3 years old. The results? 4.6 percent of all the children had hearing loss.
The study also found something that was rather new to the body of work that has been done on smoking during pregnancy and infancy: the risks of hearing loss were significantly increased when a child was exposed to tobacco during pregnancy and also exposed later in childhood again. So, essentially, if a mother smokes or uses a tobacco product during pregnancy and then continues to use it after her baby is born, or has family or friends that smoke or use tobacco regularly around their children, that child’s risk of permanent hearing loss and damage goes up by a lot.