The onset of COVID-19 pandemic since March, 2020 has hit hard on the education system across the globe. Internet technology has appeared as a boon and online classes have emerged as an order of the day and there is no respite from tech-based learning. On one hand, technology has come to portals of every home but, it has induced health risks among young and delicate minds.
Continuous exposure to screen and use of earphones in an online teaching mode is causing difficulties like dry eye syndrome, burning sensation of eyes and ear problems. Students are complaining of mood variations, poor concentrations & headaches. Nonstop use of headphones can also cause tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears). ENT Surgeons caution that prolonged use of Headphones and earbuds among students can cause hearing impairment.
Parents come with their children complaining of episodes of headaches, eye, and ear strain, tinnitus, vertigo, stress, unable to cope with the subjects. Parents are citing cognitive and behavioral changes including lack of concentration and distraction in online classes.
Effects of wearing headphones
Prolonged use of headphones can damage the hearing lectures or play music loudly. Earbud’s trap sweat and moisture in the ears. Ears self-clean with ear wax, and each time you use earbuds, you’re pushing back the wax. The wax can build up in the ear canal, potentially causing blockages or impacted ear wax.
Tips to reduce risks from headphones usage:
1. Keep adequately required volume only.
2. Between two lecture sessions give a break.
3. Better to use laptop/smartphone speakers than earphones.
4. Use noise-canceling headphones.
5. Wear headphones in place of earbuds.
Harmful effects of earphones:
• Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
• Tinnitus (Ringing sound in ears).
• Pain in the ears
• Noise sensitivity (Hyperacusis).
• Recurrent ear infection.
• Excessive ear wax.
• It is not safe to plug in earphones and listen to music while charging the phone. Recently, several cases are reported that plugging earphones to listen to music while the phone is charging may lead to electrocution. Many accidents are reported related to ‘smartphone electrocution’.
• It is not possible to reverse damage caused to the inner ear. Once the hairs in inner ear are destroyed to the point, they cannot repair themselves, they are lost for the rest of your life. We cannot currently restore damaged cells in the ear canal. ENT Surgeons can treat hearing loss and improve capacity to hear, but it is difficult to cure headphones hearing loss.
• Schools/Colleges must plan online classes in 2-3 sessions with a gap, so as to avoid continuous use of headphones. As far as possible better-quality headphones to be preferred over ear buds. Students are best judge they must make the best and judicious use of earphones.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). A whisper is about 30 dB, normal conversation is about 60 dB, and a motorcycle engine running is about 95 dB. Noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears.
by Dr. Pramod N Sulikeri, Ph.D