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Smart devices are putting our ears through a lot

Smart devices are putting our ears through a lot

  • 2015-06-30

Aman Goel's morning begins with a long conference call on his mobile phone. In office, too, he often puts on his ear phones to block out the noise to be able to concentrate on work. He has been doing this for over a year. Of late he is experiencing pain in his ear and has to strain to understand what people say.

Personal sound systems like ear phones, headphones and Bluetooth devices are everywhere today and are used by people of all ages. Earbuds or in-ear ear phones are by far the most popular choice for listening. Included with the variety of sound systems is the variety of amplification systems that come in all shapes and sizes of headphones and earphones. These devices are potentially dangerous because, if used improperly, they can cause permanent hearing loss.

These little portable speakers are causing hearing damage at an alarming rate. Studies show that one in five teenagers already suffers from hearing loss. What is even more disturbing is that hearing loss is not reversible. And, the longer it goes unrecognised and untreated, the faster it progresses.

The use of cell phone for more than 60 minutes in a day could also result in lasting damage such as high frequency hearing loss. Those with high frequency hearing loss cannot hear sounds ranging from 2,000 to 8,000 hertz, which can affect the ability to understand speech and discern consonants.

A decrease in hearing over a relatively brief period may not be noticeable to mobile phone users but would be of concern to a hearing expert. Mobile phone users who have symptoms such as a warm sensation, fullness in the ears or ringing are more likely to have the high-frequency hearing loss. The intention is not to scare people but to make them aware of possibilities and caution them to limit usage in case of any discomfort.

Mobile phones use radiofrequency (RF)  radiation. If RF radiation is high enough, it has a “thermal” effect, which means it raises the body temperature. There are concerns that the low levels of RF radiation emitted by mobile phones could cause health problems such as headaches. But what causes more hearing loss than a phone is the use of iPods and earbuds at a high volume. Listening to loud sounds like music over prolonged periods affects the nerves in the ear and causes sensory neural hearing loss, ear pain, numbness, a sensation of sounds buzzing in the ear and headache.(from:business standard)

In order to provide a clear stereophonic surround sound, manufacturers have also come up with earbuds that enhance the quality and experience of music. The user is required to insert these directly into the ear canals. This causes blockage of the air passage and creates a warm moist environment, perfect for fungal infections, ear wax build-up and even hearing loss.

Further, newer iPod and MP3 devices have more memory and better battery life, allowing people to listen longer, without interruption. Even moderately high volume can cause hearing loss if listened to for too long. For example, listening to sound at 90 decibels for three hours can be as damaging as hearing something at 155 decibels (like a jet taking off) for 30 seconds.


When possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call to limit the duration of exposure.
Stop using stylish tiny earphones as they enter your ear canal directly. Use bigger headphones.
Do not share ear phones. Unclean earphones pose a risk of fungal infection.
If your earphones have a rubber or sponge cover, then try changing them at least once in a month.
Do not play or listen to music at high volume or for a long duration.
Avoid earphones when travelling as you will tend to increase the volume due to the disturbing sounds around you and that is harmful.
Try to keep the cell phone away from your body. The amplitude of the radiation is one-fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and 50 times lower at three feet. Whenever possible, use the speaker-phone mode or a wired headset (not a Bluetooth).
Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, as this automatically increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.
Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times. Do not keep it near your body at night such as under the pillow or on a bedside table, particularly if pregnant. You can also put it on "flight" or "off-line" mode, which stops electromagnetic emissions.
If you must carry your cell phone on you, make sure that the keypad is positioned towards your body and the back is positioned towards the outside so that the transmitted electromagnetic fields move away from you rather than through you.
Only use your cell phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes.
Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out the exposure.

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