The Sacramento Bee on January 21 published a column written by a hearing aids company executive. Titled “E-cigarettes may also cause hearing loss” (here), the piece asserted that “damage to inner ear of teen [sic] is an overlooked potential health risk to vaping” and that “nicotine – regardless of whether it is inhaled in smoke or in vapor – presents a significant risk to hearing.”
These claims are fallacious. On January 27, the newspaper published my correction online:
“There is virtually no scientific evidence to support Dave Fabry's claim. I conducted a search of Medline, which contains journal citations and abstracts for biomedical literature from around the world for the period 1946-2016. Nicotine is identified as a topic in 22,218 medical publications, and hearing loss is identified in 11,984 articles. There are only two articles matching both terms: a 1956 article on vitamin therapy of chronic deafness published in Italian, and a 1964 article entitled "Are You Smoking More But Hearing Less?" It is almost impossible for Dave Fabry's claim to be valid if these two articles are the only relevant scientific publications in the world's biomedical literature for the past 70 years.”
Days later, the Bee deleted the correction but left other comments. Reader Jim McDonald observed:
“Why did you delete Dr. Rodu's comments? He did a search for studies on this topic, going back to 1946 and found nothing to support Mr. Fabry's claim. Dr. Rodu is a professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Louisville. That seems relevant.
“You also deleted mine from earlier today. I was not disrespectful.
“If you print opinions and offer a place for comment, you should expect opposing points of view.”
Nicotine has nothing to do with hearing loss, but smoking might worsen age-related impairment (here, here and here) via damage to small blood vessels in the ear.
Kudos to Mr. McDonald and another reader who brought the deletion to my attention. The newspaper erred in publishing fake news, then compounded its mistake by suppressing truthful corrective responses.