Smoking permanently damages your throat

Smoking also damages the ear

Smoking is not only the most important risk factor for lung cancer, but also leads to undesirable changes in the ear, among other things. This is shown by a study that looked at ear surgeries. Smokers performed worse than non-smokers.

The influence of cigarette smoke on the mucous membrane of the middle and inner ear is similar to that on the bronchi, as several studies have shown. Tobacco smoke can cause the cells in both places to secrete modified secretions that are difficult to remove, which can lead to blockages of the "Eustachian tuba". This thin tube, around 35 millimeters long, forms the connection between the hearing organ and the pharynx through which the smoke is inhaled. The substances contained in cigarette smoke such as formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, acrolein, acetaldehyde and phenols also affect the tiny cilia on the mucous membrane cells. This also hinders the transport of material between the ear and throat, which is important for cleaning. In addition, cigarette smoke damages another function of healthy cells: their ability to render invasive microorganisms harmless by incorporation. This promotes bacterial growth and thus the development of infections in the ear.

Hypothesis confirmed

It is therefore not surprising that the hypothesis has been circulating in specialist circles that smokers have more serious diseases in the hearing organ than non-smokers and that surgical operations on the ear lead to poorer results in them. A working group from several American ear, nose and throat clinics has now confirmed this assumption in a large retrospective study. 1 As the scientists under the direction of David M. Kaylie from Duke University in North Carolina write, this is the first such comparison between smokers, nonsmokers and former smokers. The researchers evaluated 1531 middle ear operations on 1183 patients that had been performed at the participating clinics over a period of almost 15 years; The minimum follow-up time was 12 months.

The subjects - almost as many men as women - were on average 34 years old. The clinical picture that led to the operation on the ear was perforation of the eardrum most frequently across all groups (around 70 percent). So-called cholesteatomas, however, a horny tumor in the middle ear that often lead to chronic purulent inflammation and are difficult to treat surgically, were significantly more common in smokers (23 percent) and former smokers (21 percent) than in non-smokers (16 percent). Discharge from the ear was also more common in smokers and ex-smokers (29 and 30 percent, respectively) than in non-smokers (24 percent).

The often more severe clinical picture in smokers meant that they often required a more extensive surgical procedure. For example, they were more likely to have their ossicles reconstructed, as Kaylie and his colleagues write. This was independent of whether an operative removal of the mastoid process on the temporal bone (mastoidectomy) or only a reconstruction of the eardrum (tympanoplasty) had to be carried out. In addition, the probability of a renewed intervention in the study was significantly higher for smokers than for non-smokers.

The smokers also did worse in the hearing tests carried out postoperatively - from pure-tone audiometry in air and bone conduction to hearing range tests and language comprehension. They also suffered more complications such as the formation of fistulas or the rejection of the transplant after an eardrum reconstruction. This is seen in connection with wound healing disorders, which are favored by the pollutants contained in cigarette smoke.

Recovery after quitting smoking

What the study also shows: Quitting smoking also brings improvements relatively quickly for the hearing organ. Those study participants whose last cigarette had been at least five years ago had no more severe diseases of the middle or inner ear than non-smokers. The chances of success with an operation on the ear were not worse for them either. Long-term cessation of smoking brings similar prognostic improvements for other organs. For example, the risk of death from a heart attack drops by 50 percent in the first two years after quitting. Lung cancer is less rapid. In the case of a heavy smoker for years, the risk of the disease remains at a level almost 20 times higher for four years, even after quitting, before it slowly begins to decrease. After twenty years of abstinence, the risk of lung cancer is twice as high as that of someone who has never smoked.