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article imageSmoke Gets In Your Ears - How Our Teenagers May Not Be Ignoring Us After All

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By Michelle Duffy     Jan 4, 2008 in Health
According to a new study out this week, the points in favour of smoking appears to have taken yet another dive as experts have now found a strong link between smoking and the problems people have with their hearing and comprehension
Just when we thought that our teenagers were simply ignoring us or just couldn't be bothered to take the dog for a walk when we've asked politely, it would appear that it's not our kids being rude, it's actually because they might not able to hear us.
The report has looked closely at the effects smoking has on that problematic sector of the community - teenagers, and the links between youngsters and their grasp on understanding simple words or tasks, and the answer? Smoking.
The links are shown to be from either the teens themselves who smoke or their mothers who smoked whilst they were expecting. According to the report, some teens have complained of not being able to hear or at least, have not being able to understand those talking to them - and us parents would have said that it was just teens being teens...
The report which came from the University of Yale in the U.S, found that out of the 67 teenagers who were tested, and who had been exposed to smoking in one way or another, actually did find they had problems understanding what others were saying to them. What was more, was that out of those who had complained of hearing problems, they also found it very difficult to concentrate.
So what actually is the link between these complaints and smoking? Well, we don't need to be told anymore that smoking, on the whole, is bad for us, yet what the University of Yale has proved is that those who were exposed to smoking, had brains which couldn't transmit messages to other parts of the body, efficiently. This occurred when there is white matter which has changed in some way inside the brain than normal. Scans were taken of these teens who had problems understanding their parents and other authorities, and these showed that they had more of this "overdeveloped" white matter than should be usual. This white matter is not "in sync" with the rest of the brains and when understanding sounds and responding back to them, these children found it harder than most.
The study put the teenagers, (13 to 18 year olds) in an environment where they would be easily distracted and were told to concentrate on something - those exposed to smoking found this task harder that those who were living in smoke free environments. The children were sat down in front of a computer and asked to perform a set of tasks. Whilst they studied the tasks, noises and visual distractions were put into place to see who they would react around them.
The study then, as a result, found that children exposed to smoking had overdeveloped white matter which had become so due to a chemical compound, only over active in the presence of nicotine called acetylcholine.
During the computer tests, smoke exposed boys got only 77% of the tests right, as opposed to boys not exposed who got 85% right. In girls, the results were similar, with 84% against those who did not come from smoking backgrounds who got 90% right.
Leading the research at the University was Leslie Jacobson who told BBC News Website,
"This could certainly be the case in classrooms where there may be other people talking and lots of things going on. Coupled with other conditions, such as behavioural disorders, this may tip a pupil towards failing at school."
In London, David McAlpine of the Ear Institute also said that the report shed a lot of light on the links between smoking and hearing in youngsters, he said,
"The fact that smokers show changes in this pathway means they may be less able to hear what's being said."
The report on this new study can be found in a recent copy of the New Scientist magazine.
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