The collateral damage of Covid-19 pandemic is enormous and cannot be overlooked. Apart from the direct health injuries caused by the virus itself, the pandemic has forced people to stay confined to their houses, leading to a host of lifestyle-related health problems such as obesity, depression, etc. “Another major rising health concern has been noise-induced hearing loss due to the excessive use of earphones during online office meetings and classes,” said -Dr Santosh S, Consultant – ENT, head neck and skull base surgery at Columbia Asia Hospitals Hebbal – A unit of Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore
What is noise-induced hearing loss?
Our ears are very sensitive and have a delicate structure inside them which aids in hearing. Loud sounds can damage these sensitive parts causing hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Loud sounds can also cause headaches, poor concentration and irritability.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is the second most common cause of sensorineural hearing deficit after age-related hearing loss. Our ears are continuously exposed to noise pollution such as the loud sounds of traffic, radio, television, and household appliances, almost daily. Too loud sounds negatively affect our ears even when they are for a shorter period. Such hearing loss can be prevented from worsening by stopping exposure to loud sounds,” the expert said.
How has covid 19 increased the risk of noise-induced hearing loss?
Covid-19 has forced everyone, including kids to attend meetings and classes on online platforms regularly for almost 6-7 hours. Many of us use earphones at high volume to compensate for environmental disturbances. “This has culminated in rising incidences of ear problems such as hearing loss and increased ENT visits. The use of earphones for long hours also increases the risk of ear infections,” he shared.
How to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in the current scenario?
It is important to note that ear damage does not occur by using earphones. The main problem is with the level of volume that causes real problems. Some of the best practices that can help prevent ear damage include:
*Attend office or class at a quiet place: Choose a quiet place to attend meetings or classes. This will help to reduce background noises without the need of increasing volume
*Practice 60/60 rule: People must follow the 60/60 rule. This rule states that a person should listen at 60% volume capacity for a maximum of 60 minutes.
*Remove earphones at a regular interval: People must remove their earphones at regular intervals. It will help in the circulation of fresh air inside the ears.
*Use speaker: If you are going into a long meeting, prefer to use the speaker option for the same. Encourage children to attend online classes on speaker mode. Headphones and earphones are not recommended.
*Prefer headphones over earphones: It is good to use a headphone over earphone. Earphones cause more damage by creating more volume in your ear canal.
*Advanced technology: Use the active noise cancellation feature in your headphones. It will help you to hear clearly.
*Have a routine hearing check: Get your ears checked by the ENT at regular intervals to detect any ear problems early.
*Reduce exposure to damaging sounds: People working in factories with loud sounds should use hearing protection devices to prevent damage to the ears.