Dawes, Cruickshanks, Moore, Edmondson-Jones, McCormack, Fortnum, Munro (2014)

Cigarette Smoking, Passive Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Hearing Loss, is a 2014 paper purporting to find connections between smoking, drinking and hearing loss.

From the summary linked above (edited):

The study sample was a subset of the UK Biobank Resource, 164,770 adults aged between 40 and 69 years who completed a speech-in-noise hearing test.

Hearing loss was defined as speech recognition in noise in the better ear poorer than 2 standard deviations below the mean with reference to young normally hearing listeners.

Those who consume alcohol were less likely to have a hearing loss than lifetime teetotalers. The association was similar across three levels of consumption by volume of alcohol.

The results suggest that lifestyle factors may moderate the risk of hearing loss. Alcohol consumption was associated with a protective effect. Quitting or reducing smoking and avoiding passive exposure to tobacco smoke may also help prevent or moderate age-related hearing loss.[1]

However there are a few issues with the research as reported in the MSM. From Science Daily[2] for example:

Giving up or reducing smoking and avoiding passive exposure to tobacco smoke may reduce your risk of hearing loss, new research shows.

Note the use of the weasel word "may." And "hearing loss" - as opposed to "going deaf" which is what most people will think when they first read this in the MSM.

Smokers and passive smokers more likely to suffer hearing loss, study shows

Current smokers have a 15.1% higher odds of hearing loss than non-smokers The University of Manchester study, funded by Action on Hearing Loss, Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research, found.

  • This is relying on the principle of small numbers to exaggerate a problem. If 10 non-smokers out of 1,000 would normally suffer hearing loss, then 11 or 12 smokers out of 1,000 could be expected, according to this research, to suffer.
  • Since anti-smokers claim that any smoking research cannot be believed, or is unduly biased, if it's funded by PMI, then by equivilance, this study can also be 'not be believed, and/or is unduly biased' because it's funded by Action on Hearing Loss - they have an interest in seeing that this study produce an effect that they have an interest in.

Passive smoking also increased the likelihood of hearing loss by 28%.

Since SHS hasn't been shown elsewhere to be actually a thing, how it can cause worse symptoms on non-smokers than on the actual smokers themselves is a wonder!

But ex-smokers had a slightly reduced risk of going deaf -- which may be because once they quit they adopt a more healthy life style overall.

.. and what about otherwise 'healthy' smokers? This is a study in contradictions.

The link between smoking and hearing loss is still unclear but many smokers also often had heart disease.

So, non-smokers who had heart disease... were they looked at in the study? If not, why not?

Dr Dawes added: "We are not sure if toxins in tobacco smoke affect hearing directly, or whether smoking-related cardiovascular disease causes microvascular changes that impact on hearing, or both."

Or neither - they just aren't sure. But didn't want to say that bit. I could offer "incompetent execution of the research/experiments" as a more plausable explanation, but that would be mean of me.

The increased risk among passive smokers -- higher than that for smokers -- could be because smokers were compared to both complete non-smokers and passive non-smokers but passive smokers were only compared to non-smokers.

Or they could be just grasping at straws. They "are not sure."

"Hearing loss is often viewed as an inevitable consequence of aging, but as the research published today shows, this may not always be the case. Giving up smoking and protecting your ears from loud noise are two practical steps people can take today to prevent hearing loss later in life."

"May not always be the case..." Or could always be the case. They "are not sure."

And I note that the alcohol factor mentioned in the first link wasn't even addressed by the Science Daily article. I don't expect it to be mentioned too widely in the other MSM articles that will come out.