By : Dr. Sheelu Srinivas
The introduction of new sound technologies, like the portable iPod, personal amplifying sound systems and headphones can cause severe ear damage. These days everyone owns a portable sound device and is hooked to it 24/7. However, what future cost will we have to bear for the luxury of listening to music at full blast wherever we are? Overexposure to sound from portable stereos is considered as one of the most common causes for hearing loss in young adults today.
Hearing loss occurs when you are exposed to 90 dB sound for about 8 hours in a day. Portable music systems are known to produce sound between 95 dB to 108 dB at a medium level and 115 dB at the highest level. Constant exposure to such loud sounds can lead to ear damage which may start with a ringing noise in the ears, followed by partial hearing loss and eventually complete deafness. The condition where one hears a ringing sound in their ears is called tinnitus.
As per recent statistics, there are about 70 million people who suffer from deafness in the world today, and around 80% reside in developing countries. In fact, deafness in India is the second most common reason for disability both among children and adults.
But why has loss of hearing become so common these days? While a small percentage of deafness is genetic and a number of children are born with complete or partial hearing loss, damage to the ears also occurs because of excessive noise pollution and overuse of headphones/earphones. Deafness is no longer a disability that occurs due to old age, but a condition that is affecting all age groups due to change in the environment and way of life.
Symptoms of deafness
Hearing loss may begin with tinnitus, a symptom which results in ringing of the ears. The symptom is extremely common and generally affects 1 out of 5 individuals with hearing loss. Tinnitus can be very annoying as it generally means that you hear a noise when there is actually no external sound. These phantom noises include ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, clicking etc.
In some cases, tinnitus can get so loud that it can interfere with actual hearing. The intensity and frequency of the sound depend from person to person. Tinnitus may also occur when you develop a cold or an infection. In this case, the condition is temporary and disappears once the cold settles down.
Tinnitus can have a significant impact on the quality of your life. This condition may lead to fatigue, depression and stress, make concentration difficult and interfere with sleep. If this condition persists or becomes worse with time, it is advisable that you visit an ENT specialist o find out the underlying cause of the condition and treat it accordingly.
How can you prevent deafness?
With the increasing levels of noise pollution today, it has definitely become difficult to protect oneself from exposure to loud noises and sounds. But certain precautions can go a long way when it comes to preventing ear damage and loss of hearing.
For instance, avoid listening to extremely loud music on earphones/headphones. If you are a music lover, listen to music on low or medium sound through speakers. A number of individuals also suffer from nerve damage of the ears due to exposure to loud noise over time. This may be because they are working in an industry, handling loud machinery or are musicians. In this case, you should ensure that you wear ear protection to prevent ear damage. Moreover, leading an active and healthy lifestyle is a must when it comes to keeping your cardiovascular system healthy. Fit cardiovascular activity will prevent damage to the blood vessels of the ears in the long run.
Dr. Sheelu Srinivas is Senior Consultant – ENT, Columbia Asia Hospital Sarjapur Road and for feedback can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org