Raghvendra, a photographer in his late thirties, had no idea why he could not hear after he finished shooting a religious procession, one day. The mild hearing loss soon aggravated and he stopped hearing any sound at a normal volume. Upon examination, doctors found he had 50 to 70 per cent hearing loss in both the ears.
Chetana had no idea why her ears would suddenly start ringing. The ringing sound would at times become irritable and distressing for the 23-year-old. She also had episodes of splitting headaches as well. For months, she put up with the pain in her inner ear till she decided that she had had enough and visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
Noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, experts said, are man-made health concerns to a certain extent. Due to rapid urbanization, industrial expansion, growing technology and mode of communications, the cases of hearing loss and tinnitus have increased rapidly, doctors added.
“Noise induced sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus are man-made diseases to certain extent. The major causative factor is noise pollution. There has been considerable increase in cases of hearing loss and tinnitus where the causative factors is exposure to loud noise for prolonged period,” ENT surgeon Sudhir Bhalerao said.
Urbanization has increased rapidly and so has the traffic. “Unnecessary blowing of horns on the road, loudspeakers, loud celebrations during festivals, and processions on the streets have a damaging effect on one’s hearing.Besides, whether it is Diwali or Ganeshotsav and whether it is marriage or winning a match, bursting of firecrackers has become a norm now. New categories of patients are the younger generation who are exposed to such loud sounds,” he added.
Besides, there is profession-wise vulnerability. “The professions which are more vulnerable for hearing loss are textile industries, printing press, mining, building activities and the music industry.
Lack of awareness about hearing loss and no hearing protection makes them more susceptible. All these professionals encounter greater degree of sound exposure for a longer period which leads to hearing loss over a period of years,” Bhalerao said. He is the president of the Association Of Otolaryngologist Of India, Pune branch.
Doctors see hearing problems in patients between six and 19 years of age. “Lifestyle is certainly a factor in increasing hearing loss. Loud video games, MP3 players, concerts, sporting events, movie theatres, surround sound entertainment and cell phones deliver a big impact on the hearing of the younger generation,” Bhalerao said.
Treatment can help regain the loss, but in many cases it is found that such hearing loss can be irreparable. “If you are having a temporary threshold shift then hearing can be regained by avoiding exposure to loud sounds. Medical therapy, which includes steroids and vitamin supplements, can be given to improve hearing. If it is permanent then hearing aids can be given,” Bhalerao said.
ENT surgeon Vandana Joshi said earlier, only factory workers were at risk of prolonged noise exposure, but now all people, especially youngsters are exposed to noise levels, way above permissible limits.
“High frequency loss is seen more commonly than before, cases with tinnitus are on the rise. As per my observation, rural population with normal hearing seldom complaint tinnitus. Age related hearing loss is seen in fifties,” she said.
Experts say that sounds above 90 decibels are potentially dangerous and anything above 120 is absolutely dangerous. The longer the exposure to such loud sounds, the worse the effect on the ears. If hearing loss sets in early, then by the time the individual reaches 50 he would have already have a hearing loss of around 30 decibels.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is the second most common sensorineural hearing loss, after age-related hearing loss,” said ENT surgeon Sachin Gandhi, head of the ENT department at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital.
“It is important is to create awareness among the general mass regarding hazards of noise pollution,” he said.
Community noise includes those emitted from a refrigerator, juicer-mixer-grinder, television or a washing machine. Whereas industrial noise includes, those created by automobiles on the road, constructions activities, fireworks and loudspeakers.