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Prolonged use of earphones may cause hearing loss, expert warns

High-decibel and excessive use of hearing gadgets may cause Noise Induced Hearing Loss, especially among younger people

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Srinagar, Jan 19 : Keeping earphones plugged in for a long time may cause hearing problems in the long run, experts have warned.

According to medical professionals, the main issue with headphones or earphones is the loudness to ears as well as their prolonged use.

“Earphones are capable of creating very loud levels of sound very close to the ear and so are quite harmful,” Dr Irfan Ul Shamas, a prominent ENT expert in the valley, told the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO). He said it is not only about the loudness of the headphones, but also about the duration, the earphones are plugged in.

Dr Shamas said they are not witnessing any major cases of hearing loss currently in Kashmir. However, there are more chances of ‘Occupational Noise Induced Hearing Loss’ (ONIHL) due to high volume or prolonged use of earphones or headphones, he added.

Speaking about the ONIHL scenario, Dr Shamas said this typical hearing loss happens at a frequency of 4000 Hz, and in its early stage, a person cannot hear sounds like the noise of birds or the sound of flowing water. “One should not continue the prolonged use of headphones or earphones or at high decibels as its excessive usage will definitely cause Noise Induce Hearing Loss,” he said.

The ENT specialist strictly warned against the use of earphones or headphones by younger people, especially children, saying young people, especially students, are at a potentially high risk of getting affected by ‘Occupational Noise Induced Hearing Loss’ due to excessive and prolonged use of hearing gadgets.

Sharing his clinical experience, he highlighted that people from the coppersmith profession are also vulnerable to hearing loss as a maximum of their work without any ear-protecting gear.

“When coppersmiths are at work, the sound of short burst sound goes to ear as high as 120 decibels levels. However, if they use protective gear like ear plugs or at a minimum with cotton with Vaseline that can give them protection to a certain level,” he said.

Notably, an observational research study was conducted by a team of valley-based doctors in the department of ENT & HNS of the government medical college Srinagar and SMHS hospital for a period of two years from Aug 2011 to Oct 2013, in which a total of 158 patients were included in the study who were exposed to audiometric analysis apart from clinical examinations.

According to the research, the purpose of that observational study was to evaluate the incidence of occupational noise-induced hearing loss (ONIHL) among the local industrial population of Kashmir which is involved in occupations exposed to noise.

In its conclusion report, the research stated that the people who are exposed to the noise of more than 90db for more than 8 hours a day working in local industries of Kashmir have high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss.

Urging the youngsters to limit the use of earphones, and headphones Dr Shamas said those in need to use these alternative hearing gadgets should use them at regular intervals and breaks and keep half of the volume of the total volume capacity.

In another study published in the journal BMJ Global Health in November 2022, research was conducted to determine the prevalence of unsafe listening practices from exposure to personal listening devices (PLDs) and loud entertainment venues in individuals aged 12–34 years, and to estimate the number of young people who could be at risk of hearing loss from unsafe listening worldwide.

The study in its concluding report stated that unsafe listening practices are highly prevalent worldwide and may place over 1 billion young people at risk of hearing loss. It said there is an urgent need to prioritise policy focused on safe listening.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 430 million people worldwide currently have disabling hearing loss. Young people are particularly vulnerable because of their use of personal listening devices (PLDs), such as smartphones, headphones, and earbuds, and attendance at loud music venues, amid poor regulatory enforcement—(KNO)

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