Loud noise from music players, night parties among other sources, is trendy new danger to the eardrums. When the eardrums are exposed to noise level above 50 decibels they may get damaged, which will lead to hearing losses or complete deafness.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), estimated in 2012 that there were up to 360 million persons in the world with disabling hearing loss. Thirty-two million of these are children.
Hearing loss could be in one or both ears and may be mild, moderate or severe. The normal hearing threshold in one or both ears is 25db. However, disabling hearing loss refers to hearing loss greater than 40db in the better hearing ear in adults and a hearing loss greater than 30db, in the better hearing ear in children.
The cause of hearing loss could be acquired or congenital. Congenital causes of hearing loss include but not limited to complications during pregnancy, maternal rubella, syphilis, presence of other sexually transmitted, low birth weight, lack of oxygen at birth, usage of wrong drugs and dosage during pregnancy. Severe jaundice after delivery could also lead to hearing loss.
Acquired causes are infections, like mumps, measles, chronic ear infection like collection of fluid in the ear (otitis media), meningitis, malaria, injury to the head or ear, drug-resistant tuberculosis and cancers, among others. However, excessive noise from explosions or machinery, recreational loud sounds from personal audio devices, high volume sounds from events, churches, mosques, nightclubs, bars, and concerts may gradually lead to deafness.
Introduction of foreign bodies into the ear, ageing and degeneration of sensory cells due to ill health may also damage the eardrums.
According to Dr. Didaal Orgu, the head of department, Ear, Nose and Throat (NENT) of the Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital, Port Harcourt, said hearing loss was usually gradual.
“Most times the person will not even know that it has started affecting his hearing,” he said.
The expert said it could take some years before the agents start damaging the hearing, while cautioning that if youths continued the way they are going, with the use of earpieces, headphones and engaging in night parties, they would end up as adults with hearing problems.
On his part, Dr. Chibuzo Okechi Mbalaso, a senior registrar in the ENT department of the University of Port Harcourt, said prevention of hearing loss was cheaper than the cure.
He said the number of people with hearing loss had increased from 360 million in 2012 to 466million this year, according to WHO statistics. By 2050, he said, the projection is that up to 900 million people in the world will have hearing loss. He however, said more than 50 per cent of the causes are preventable.
Speaking about 2018 World Hearing Day, with theme: “Hear the Future,” he said the projection for 2050 showed what the future looks like. “
If we have heard it, we should then prepare for it and prevent it from happening,” he said.
Some of the infections that cause loss of hearing are preventable and curable. Some of the symptoms of ear infection are pain, discharge from the ear or too much itching. Ear infection needs professional attention. people should not just go to pharmacies or chemists to buy ear drops or put all manner of herbs in the ear as these can further damage hearing.
When children come down with some of these infections, the ENT specialist advised that they should be treated properly.
Another preventable cause of hearing loss is noise. Yes, too much exposure or prolonged exposure to loud noise over a period of time damages the hearing. It is a gradual thing.
Dr. Mbalaso said the more one is exposed to noise, the more damage it does to the nerve that controls hearing.
He said such noise emanating from generators, loud machines at work, loud music in churches and clubs all affect our ears negatively. He advised people to do all they can to protect their ears from noise using ear mufflers or plugs. There should be regulations on the number of hours people should work in noisy companies.
Talking on noise pollution from worship and entertainment centres, he said in churches and mosques people should consciously seat far from the loud speakers and our religious leaders should reduce the noise generated by their activities.
“The noise level in night clubs is so high. Going there frequently will damage the ears,” he said.
He encouraged pregnant women to enroll and complete their antenatal classes so as to prevent hearing loss that may occur during pregnancy, at childbirth or after it.
According him, immunisations and safe deliveries reduce the chances of hearing loss in children.
At the national level, Mbalaso reiterated the need for Nigeria to partner the WHO through the ministry of health so as to inculcate the preventive programmes that will stop hearing loss into primary health care system. “Government should also regulate the noise on our streets, train and encourage the training of audiologists and speech therapists in the country to help fight the war against hearing loss,” he advised.