Is Your Profession Making You Susceptible to Hearing Loss?
New Delhi 9th December 2015: Samar (name changed), a 32 year old music enthusiast was working as a DJ for the past 5 years. He absolutely loved his profession as it kept him close to his passion – music. However, his concerns started when he began experiencing ringing in his ears, loss of balance and a gradual loss of hearing ability. The constant exposure to high decibels of noise had caused damage to his inner ear!
Jobs where loud noise is a regular part of the working environment such as Samar’s can make you susceptible to hearing loss. People who work in construction, factories, constant traffic honking or discotheques where loud music plays non-stop can suffer irreparable damage inside their ears. People working in professions that involve continuous exposure to loud noise are highly susceptible to noise-induced hearing.
It is estimated that 10 million Americans have suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise. As per the 2005 report of WHO, nearly 63 million people in India were suffering from auditory loss. While there is no such data available for India, clinical evidence suggests a rise in noise induced hearing loss. It’s time that the enormity of this issue is significantly understood and necessary precautions and preventions are undertaken.
Remember that if you are in an environment where you cannot hear the voice of a person who is 3 feet away from you, the noise level could be damaging your ears.
While such a hearing loss does not come about immediately, continuous use for a few years may start damaging the ear canal or cells in the inner ear that transmit impulses to the brain. Nerve cells that transmit the signals from inner ear to brain can suffer permanent damage due to high decibel noise. Both volume and duration of exposure play a role in determining the extent of damage caused to the ear.
“Unfortunately, the effects of noise are often underestimated because the damage takes place gradually. Moreover, loud noises have become a part of our culture. A night out is not complete without a loud music session; youngsters are constantly glued to their mp3 devices with headphones. In some cases, the intensity of noise can be so high, it can suddenly cause hearing loss. For example, a shot fired from a firearm close to the range of an ear can cause damage to the ear,” says Ms Neevita Narayan, leading audiologist and founder of Sphear Speech & Hearing Clinic.
“We saw a patient who went to watch the Formula 1 race at the Indian Grand Prix and did not use earplugs as is the norm. The man suffered immediate damage to the ears and suffered hearing impairment from which he cannot recover. Similarly, a number of people who work in construction spaces and factories around Delhi also report incidences of noise induced hearing loss. Completely unaware of the repercussions this can have they do not wear ear covers of noise plugs for the ears, and end up with hearing loss for life. It is very important to raise awareness about this condition and educate people about appropriate preventive measures,” says Dr Ameet Kishore, Senior Consultant Surgeon, ENT at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi & Consultant Surgeon at SpHear Speech and Hearing Clinic.
Studies have shown that a volume of 85 decibels may take eight hours to cause damage to the inner ear. How much 85 decibels actually is? It will help our understanding to know that our normal conversation is conducted in voices of around 50-60 decibels. The volume playing on our headphone is certainly higher and closer to the ear. A sound of 100 decibels on the other hand can start causing damage to the ear within 30 minutes of listening.
Here’s a look at some professions that put you at high risk:
Music & Discotheque employees
You must have experienced a ringing or discomfort in ears after stepping out of a discotheque after a few hours. Loud music is a major cause of hearing loss and these situations are specially encountered at bars, night clubs, discotheques or concerts. Maximum nightlife hotspots operate at levels above 100 decibels and can really damage the eardrums. Performers, musicians and DJs are thus at constant risk of losing their hearing power and should seek out special earplugs for protection.
A traffic policeman spends his whole day regulating the massive car traffic on roads. Along with dust and polluted air which his lungs inhale, his ears are constantly exposed to noise pollution. Non-stop honking of car horns and all the noises in the traffic can cause damage to the ear and harm listening ability.
Construction, miners, carpentry and factory workers
Construction workers face hazardous situations at work and exposure to over 85 decibels of noise over long periods. Various construction tools like hammer drill has a capacity to create noise of approx. 115 decibels which in turn causes irreparable damage to the ear. Similarly, carpenters and miners also face hazardous sounds and may require ear protection at their workplace.
Not just professionals, even amateur music listeners who are addicted to earphones and hear music at loud noise so close to the eardrum are also susceptible to hearing loss.