With Sumit’s ICSE examination just a year away, his parents received a complaint that he was not being attentive in class. After admonishing their son for skipping studies and attending parties, the Agarwals discovered, to their horror, that their teenage son was slowly going deaf. The neuro-otologist they consulted blamed it on “constant exposure to loud music”. Sumit is now on hearing aids.
Are Calcutta’s teenagers increasingly suffering from deafness-related problems' Yes, warn city-based specialists, adding that nearly 70 per cent of all ENT problems they encounter turn out to be hearing problems. And a majority of such patients are teenagers. Parents, they add, must watch out for over-exposure to noise, specifically loud music at parties, discos and even from the TV, which are all combining to cause permanent damage to the ear.
Neuro-otologist Anirban Biswas of Belle-Vue Clinic is clearly worried by this trend of teenage deafness. “Exposure to loud noise and excessive stress and strain is having a telling effect on the ears of young people. We are advising parents to take care or else the damage could be more severe,” says Biswas.
According to ENT specialists, the human ear, especially in case of children, can tolerate sound levels up to 85 decibels only. Anything above that could cause permanent damage to the cochlea (hearing apparatus in the ear responsible for converting sound energy into electrical energy). Loud noise for at least six continuous hours could damage the cells of the cochlea, doctors add.
Sumit Bose, head of the ENT department at R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, feels ignoring chronic ailments like common cold from the early stages is also contributing to ear trouble. “Deafness from exposure to loud noise is gradual, but very damaging. The problem begins in infancy but is noticed only later. So, I have taken to counselling parents as well,” says Bose.
At Westbank Hospital in Howrah, during a recent ENT clinic, Dr Parthojyoti Mondol discovered that nine out of 10 patients were complaining of ear problems. And six of the nine were in their teens. “Among all ENT-related cases, deafness is the most prevalent and children are increasingly getting affected,” confirms ENT specialist Kaushik Das.
Figures from Woodlands, AMRI-Apollo Hospitals, Westbank, Belle-Vue, Kothari Medical Centre, SSKM Hospital and NRS Hospital add up to 650-700 of every 1,000 patients, between 10 and 22 years, having deafness-related problems.