Claim: Nicotine exposure during and after pregnancy can cause hearing problems in children

Wut?

Study done with mice — which are not little people. And so where were all the hearing impaired children when many pregnant women and parents smoked during the 20th century? Just askin’.

The media release is below.

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Nicotine exposure during and after pregnancy can cause hearing problems in children
Nicotine exposure, before and after birth, can cause a child to have hearing problems due to abnormal development in the auditory brainstem

THE PHYSIOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Nicotine exposure, before and after birth, can cause a child to have hearing problems due to abnormal development in the auditory brainstem. This is according to a mouse model study published in The Journal of Physiology.

Nicotine exposure during pregnancy has previously been shown to harm the brain development of a fetus. Mothers who smoke, use e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy have an increased risk of premature delivery, decreased child birth weight, and an increased rate of sudden infant death. This research reports, for the first time, that the auditory brainstem, an area of the brain which plays a role in analysing sound patterns, may develop abnormally in offspring when pregnant mothers are exposed to nicotine before and after giving birth. Children with impaired auditory brainstem function are likely to have learning difficulties and problems with language development.

The researchers added nicotine to the drinking water of pregnant mice to reach blood nicotine levels similar to heavy human smokers. The offspring of the mice were exposed to nicotine before birth and via the mother’s milk until they were three weeks old — an age that is approximately equivalent to primary school children. The scientists then analysed the brains of the offspring mice by measuring the firing properties and signalling abilities of their neurons. These results were compared to a control group of offspring from pregnant mice with no nicotine exposure.

Neurons that get input from the cochlea (sensory organ in the ear) were less effective at transmitting signals to other auditory brainstem neurons in mice exposed to nicotine. Moreover, these signals were transmitted with less precision, which deteriorates the coding of sound patterns. These could be part of the underlying causes for auditory processing difficulties in children of heavy smoking mothers.

Ursula Koch, Professor at the Freie Universität Berlin and lead investigator of the study said: ‘We do not know how many other parts of the auditory system are affected by nicotine exposure. More research is needed about the cumulative effect of nicotine exposure and the molecular mechanisms of how nicotine influences the development of neurons in the auditory brainstem.’

She added, ‘If mothers smoke during pregnancy and their children show learning difficulties at school, they should be tested for auditory processing deficits.’

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8 thoughts on “Claim: Nicotine exposure during and after pregnancy can cause hearing problems in children”

  1. btw children with learning disabilities are already tested for auditory deficits…………nothin to see here move along…….

  2. Just how many questions did they ask. Mice are not men and asking lots of questions gets you random false positives.

  3. My mother lived long enough to start seeing reports on what causes “low birth weight” risks and other issues with her five live-birth children (she did have two miscarriages – not all that uncommon in 7 pregnancies in the 1960s).

    She would always say “Thank God I smoked and drank when I was pregnant with you, Stan. I can’t imagine how big you would have been if I hadn’t!”

    I was 9 lbs, 9 oz.

  4. “Analysed the brains…” might the fact that they were dead have some significance. I have heard (no pun intended) that dead creatures lose a significant part of their hearing. 😆

  5. Now that smoking has become a “class” separated activity with the lower socioeconomic classes being the largest smokers, we should be able to find millions of pathological “associations” that we can claim were caused by smoking.

  6. “And so where were all the hearing impaired children when many pregnant women and parents smoked during the 20th century?”

    They were inventing amplified music and loud Rock ‘n Roll.

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