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Passive smoking tied to hearing loss in teens

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(CBS) Some earbud-addicted teens listen to music so loud it seems smoke might come out of their ears. But new research suggests that many cases of hearing loss are the result of smoke that goes into their bodies.

We're talking passive smoking or secondhand smoke, a.k.a. SHS.

SHS has been linked to myriad health problems in kids, including behavioral problems and lung and ear infections. And now researchers have linked SHS to a reduction in adolescents' ability to hear both high and low frequencies.

For the study - published in the the July issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery - researchers at New York University analyzed interviews of 1,533 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19. In addition, the teens were given physical exams and hearing tests as well as blood tests for cotinine, a chemical byproduct of nicotine exposure.

Roughly 12 percent of SHS-exposed kids had mild to severe hearing loss in one ear, compared to less than eight percent of kids without smoke exposure, Reuters Health reported. More than 80 percent of the affected kids were unaware they had any hearing impairment.

What's the take-away message for teens and their parents?

"Adolescents who are exposed to SHS may need to be more closely monitored for hearing loss," the researchers said in a written statement. "In addition, they should be educated about risk factors for hearing loss, such as recreational or occupational noise exposure and SHS."

The finding came as a bit of a surprise to some experts, including Dr. Josepha DiFranza, a secondhand smoke researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester.

"We already knew that passive smoking is bad for children," he told Reuters Health. "This just piles on another reason" kids shouldn't be exposed to secondhand smoke.

The American Cancer Society has more on secondhand smoke.