Loud music, earphones lead to hearing loss
International Week of the Deaf is observed from 24 to 30 September and we have some insight on hearing impairment in India.
It’s an all too familiar sight these days – people, mostly youngsters, with earphones on, listening to music on their i-Pods or mobile phones. The constant exposure to high decibel sounds, however, may be doing more harm than good and can even lead progressively to hearing impairment, doctors warn.
What’s more, it may be a few years until you realise the hearing loss since it grows over a period of time.
“Listening to loud music over long durations on your i-Pod or mobile phone can lead to hearing loss. It is a serious issue because it’s progressive and it may be a few years before you realise the effect,” Manuj Agarwal, senior audiologist with Amplifon India, a hearing aid company, said.
“Moreover, people adapt to such kind of loss over a period of time; so you don’t realise immediately, until it becomes obvious,” he added.
Roughly seven percent of Indians suffer from some kind of hearing impairment.
Priyanka Madhok, consultant in the audiology and speech therapy department of Max Super Speciality hospital in Delhi, explained the science behind this “rising trend” of music-induced hearing loss.
“In a normal conversation, we are exposed to 40-50 decibel sound, which has no harmful effect. However, if the sound level goes beyond 80 decibels for a constant period of even two-three hours, the hearing ability will drop,” Madhok said.
Added Agarwal: “If the magnitude of sound is high, then even a few hours of exposure is enough to cause you harm. Ninety decibels for four hours is risky and so is two hours of 100 decibel sound. In airports, the magnitude of sound is 120 decibels; so people working there have to wear ear protection devices.”
One of Madhok’s patients is a disc jockey and is regularly exposed to loud music for long hours.
“He came to me with the complaint that he hears a buzzing sound in his ears in quiet surroundings. This buzz or ring in the ear is called Tinnitus. So I asked him to go for a hearing test, which came out normal. But when he went for an extended test, in high frequency, it was found that there was a drop in hearing, which meant that he had some loss,” Madhok said.
“Fortunately, it was a temporary hearing shift and I introduced him to therapy. After six months, his hearing has improved. Music is his livelihood; so now he is more careful,” she added.
Talking about the possibility of reversing hearing loss, Madhok said: “If a person is exposed to industry noise, high frequency sounds, for 30 years, then there is a possibility of nerve damage and that cannot be repaired.”
“But if a person is exposed to loud music, like a DJ, for say, 10 years, and goes for regular check-ups, and then complains of hearing loss, then that is something that can be managed. So it really depends on the extent of damage,” she added.
While music-induced hearing loss is a major concern, industry workers, engineers, pilots, those who work in airports and DJs, among others, are exposed to threats of hearing impairment every day, thanks to their profession.
“Therefore, earplugs in such professions are a must. But even then, I would advice such people, and others, to go for regular check-ups,” Sameer Jain, an audiologist in Delhi, advised.
Considering the initial dormant nature of the problem, doctors advise one to be on the lookout for warning signs of possible hearing impairment.
“Do you have a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears in quiet surroundings and it disappears after some time? Do you have to concentrate hard to catch words in a conversation? In a meeting, or while with friends in a public place, do you find it hard to hear full sentences? Your replies could indicate if you need to see a doctor,” Agarwal said.
“And hearing impairment has nothing to do with age; so don’t hesitate to seek help if you feel the need,” Jain added.
So, the next time you turn up the volume of your i-Pod to blank out the surrounding noises, think again – you may be blanking out something much more vital.