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Smoking While Pregnant Tied to Hearing Loss in Children

Update Date: Jul 09, 2013 12:12 PM EDT
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Prenatal care, in which pregnant mothers take vitamins and watch what they eat, plays a huge factor in the health of the unborn infant. Several studies have researched the variables that could negatively affect fetuses in the womb. One recent study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that mothers who conceived in May had a 10 percent increased risk of birthing an infant prematurely. The researchers reasoned that the flu season played a factor in prenatal growth and spurred on early deliveries. In another new study, researchers reported that prenatal smoking could be tied specifically to hearing loss in adolescents.

Studies have found evidence that smoking harms not only the smokers, but also the innocent people around them. When a pregnant woman chooses to smoke, the effects of the cigarettes are then directly impacting the unborn child. Studies have tied prenatal tobacco exposure to health complications. In this study, researchers, with head author, Michael Weitzman from the New York University School of Medicine, followed a group of 964 children aged 12 to 15. The sample was taken from a 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination survey. In this survey, 16 percent of the parents admitted to smoking while pregnant. The researchers found that the offspring of these parents were three times more likely to suffer from mild hearing loss when they reached their adolescent years.

"Most of the mothers in this particular sample quit [smoking] in the first trimester," a contributor of the study, Anil Lalwani said according to USA Today. Lalwani is a professor and vice chairman for research at Columbia University in New York City.  "Even brief encounters [with tobacco smoke] have negative effects. Data suggested, whether it's primary or secondary exposure, [prenatal smoking] has detrimental consequences to the auditory system and that damage, though sometimes mild, can have lots of negative effects for the child."

The researchers were unable to pinpoint how smoking contributed to hearing loss and whether or not prenatal exposure has a long-term effect. The researchers did account for variables, such as attending loud concerts and the frequency of wearing headphones. The researchers stressed that hearing loss, even if it is mild, can lead to several problems, such as lower IQ (intelligence quotient) scores down the line. Women should reconsider their smoking habits when they get pregnant and in general since even a little bit of exposure appears to affect the unborn baby in negative ways.

The study was published in JAMA Otolaryngology

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