by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

How are smoking and loud noise similar? Reading that sentence, you may think, “Has Dr. Fink lost his mind?”

No, I don’t think so. The American Heart Association News published this report, based on research published by doctors at Northwestern University, documenting the effect of smoking on the development of cardiovascular disease in smokers.

The new insight from this research was that a smoker’s first sign of heart disease was often the last, because it was a fatal heart attack in someone without a previous history of heart disease. This insight builds on research from the United Kingdom showing that even one cigarette dramatically increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.

The AHA writes that “[t]he findings show the cumulative harm smoking does to a person’s heart health over a lifetime – kick-starting the development of cardiovascular disease at an earlier age, adding increased risk for fatal events in middle age and persisting into a person’s 80s.”

And that’s why smoking and loud noise are similar. Sometimes, the first sign of auditory damage is the development of tinnitus, hyperacusis, or hearing loss after a one-time noise exposure. That’s what happened to me.

Avoid cigarettes and avoid secondhand smoke to prevent cancer and heart disease.

And avoid exposure to loud noise to prevent hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis.

Because if something sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your auditory health is at risk.