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Noise Health. 2013 Jan-Feb;15(62):67-72. doi: 10.4103/1463-1741.107159.

Effect of cigarette smoking on noise-induced hearing loss in workers exposed to occupational noise in China.

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  • 1Research Center of Occupational Medicine, Peking University 3rd Hospital, Beijing, China.


Excessive exposure to high noise level environments has the potential to cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and cigarette smoking has also been shown to have a potential adverse effect on hearing. The aim of this study was to determine whether smoking interacts with noise in the development of hearing loss, and if so, the extent of the contribution from smoking on NIHL. A cross-sectional study was designed to assess the effect of smoking on NIHL in 517 male workers (non-smokers: N = 199; smokers: N = 318) exposed to a high-level industrial noise environment in China. Shift-long temporal waveforms of the noise that workers were exposed to for evaluation of noise exposures, and audiometric threshold measures were obtained on all selected subjects. The subjects used hearing protection devices only within the last 1-2 years. The results suggest that smoking has an adverse effect on NIHL in workers exposed to high level industrial noise, i.e., the median high frequency hearing thresholds were significantly greater in smokers than non-smokers exposed to noise for more than 10 years. This effect was observed at 4.0 and 6.0 kHz. Smoking did not have an adverse effect on NIHL in workers exposed to noise less than 10 years. Multivariate regression analysis revealed that the odds ratio (OR) for high frequency hearing loss (i.e., hearing threshold greater than 40 dB at 4.0 kHz) were 1.94 for smokers in comparison to non-smokers. The results suggest that: (1) smokers have a higher risk of developing high frequency hearing loss than non-smokers with a similar occupational noise exposure, and (2) the interaction between cigarette smoking and high-level noise exposure may be additive. There is a need to develop and analyze a larger database of workers with well-documented exposures and smoking histories for better understanding of the effect of smoking on NIHL incurred from high-level industrial noise exposures. A better understanding of the role of smoking may lead to its incorporation into hearing risk assessment for noise exposure.

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