Use of earphones for working online causing infections: Experts

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Mumbai: With the COVID-19 pandemic  forcing professionals to work from home and students to attend classes online using earphones, doctors are now getting more patients with complaints of pain, irritation and infection in the ears.

According to medical experts, use of headphones and earpods for long hours in the last seven to eight months has increased such complaints.

“All these complaints are directly linked to extensive use of headphones at higher volume,” Dr Shrinivas Chavan, head of the ENT department at the government-run J J Hospital in Mumbai, said. Every day, five to 10 people are turning up at the J J Hospital’s Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department with such complaints, he said.

“Most of them are working for more than eight hours wearing headphones. This is putting a lot of stress on their ears and unsterilised earpods or ear-plugs could spread infection. Continuous listening at higher sound volume for long hours is weakening the listening ability also,” he said.

If people do not change their habits, they could face “permanent damage” to their ears, Dr Chavan warned. He said the wax inside the ear kills the bacteria naturally and prevents infection. Use of cotton buds to clean ears removes this protective wax covering and exposes the inner part of the ear to bacterial infections. This generally leads to earaches, he said.

Asked how such infections could be avoided, he said, “We have been advising people to remove earphones from time- to-time. Fresh air should go inside the ears to keep them safe.”

Dr Rahul Kulkarni, head of the ENT unit at St George Hospital here, said ear problems are not just related to working professionals, but school children who have to attend online classes are also having such complaints.

“Ideally, school children should not be using headphones at all. If they are attending classes on laptop or personal computers, then the device volume is sufficient,” he said.

“Once schools resume, I fear there will be a significant number of students complaining about hearing difficulties,” he said.

Dr Kulkarni said people are unaware of the etiquettes of how to converse on phone calls, conference calls and video-conferences and use loud sound volume on headphones.

“If school-going students are using headphones at the sound of more than 60 decibels, it will naturally put a strain on their hearing power,” he said.

He said attention should be paid to what sound volume children are using while attending their classes. If they are listening to lectures at a higher volume on headphones, then it could lead to complications.

“Even adults are coming up with complaints of irritation in the ears. The exposure to loud sound for a longer period makes people anxious and short-tempered. Such complaints are also being seen nowadays,” he said.