Cigarette Smoking Impacts Protocols for Hearing Testing in Baby Boomers and Young Adults

By Ishara Ramkissoon.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

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The current study connects audiology with public health community practices by highlighting the impact of cigarette smoking on auditory function in baby boomers (BB) compared to younger adults. This investigation evaluated prevalence of hearing difficulty, performance of self report (SR) against audiometry, and auditory evoked potentials in 44 participants: BB smokers (N=8), BB nonsmokers (N=13), younger smokers (N=11), and younger nonsmokers (N=12). The results revealed higher prevalence of self reported hearing difficulty in BB smokers (37.5%) and younger smokers (18.2%) compared to nonsmokers (0–13.6%). Also, self report was incongruent with pure tone audiometry because BB smokers and younger smokers overestimated hearing loss compared to nonsmokers. Overall, specificity of the SR measure was highest in nonsmokers (92–100%) compared to smokers (67–82%). However among the BB, high specificity of the SR measure was split by the smoking factor as it was higher in BB nonsmokers (92%) than BB smokers (67%). Sensitivity results were similar to previous studies. In the evoked potential analyses, there was a main effect of Measure but no significant group differences in latency and/or amplitude among the four groups of participants; possibly due to low statistical power. However, the group means suggested a possible pattern of higher amplitudes and shorter latency among the BB smokers. These results will guide future research as it suggests that the combined effects of aging and smoking impact central auditory function in BB smokers, and shorter latency might reflect decreased cortical inhibition associated with aging or faster neural transmission due to smoking. Clinical implications for adult hearing screening protocols including self report and audiometry are discussed for at-risk adults. This will guide current practice for professionals conducting hearing screenings, making referrals, or providing audiological treatment. Implications for public and community health programs that emphasize hearing health promotion are discussed.

Keywords: Smoking, Self Report, Evoked Potentials, Health Promotion, Hearing Screening, Baby Boomers

Aging and Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.75-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 576.688KB).

Dr. Ishara Ramkissoon

Assistant Professor, Department of Speech Pathology & Audiology , College of Allied Health Professions, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, USA

Ishara Ramkissoon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at the University of South Alabama. Dr. Ramkissoon received her Ph.D. in 2005 from the University of Illinois where she also served as a doctoral student member of the Initiative on Aging. She is a certified audiologist with extensive clinical experience in medical and community audiology practice in South Africa and the United States. Dr. Ramkissoon teaches graduate (Au.D.) audiology classes. Her main areas of research are Aging, Multicultural Issues, and Health Disparities. Dr. Ramkissoon has presented her research at national and international conferences, and published in leading journals. Her professional service beyond the departmental level highlights national and international activities including reviews of manuscripts and books, American Speech Language Hearing Assoc. activities such as review of articles and grant proposals, and member of the Board of Trustees for Mercy Medical in Alabama. She is a current member of the Gerontology Research Network and the Health Disparities Research Group at the University of South Alabama, engaging in cross-disciplinary research and community-based health promotion initiatives.