The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shut out sound to save the ears

Symptoms of deafness ignored by Calcuttans

HHearing similar-sounding words

HHeaviness in the ear

HTinnitus (constant buzzing sound in the ear)

What can cause deafness'

HConstant exposure to loud music, especially in discos

HExposure to noise in manufacturing units

HExposure to air horns, if living on a busy street

When 31-year-old Rikhiya Roy left her job in Delhi to escape environmental pollution two years ago, little did she know that the noise pollution in Calcutta would get her instead.

A week ago, an ENT specialist diagnosed that blaring air horns near her home and noise from the pen-manufacturing machines at her workplace had caused irreparable damage to her ear.

Cases of deafness and psychological problems caused by noise pollution among Calcuttans in their 20s and 30s are being reported with a regularity that is both alarming and unprecedented.

“Every three out of 10 patients coming with ENT problems these days are suffering from noise-induced hearing loss. Some of them are coming with partial deafness, while others have ignored their problem for a longer period of time, causing permanent damage to their ears,” says ENT specialist Anirban Biswas.

The biggest worry for Calcuttans, according to specialists, is psychological, with the problems including irritability, low tolerance levels and stress linked to increasing exposure to noise pollution. “Perhaps the psychological aspects were always present, but they are being diagnosed more frequently now,” added Biswas.

Anupam Gehlot, of Rashbehari Avenue, has regular run-ins with his wife and children simply because he doesn’t allow them to watch TV after returning from work. Later, Gehlot, a chemical engineer, admitted to a doctor that he finds the sound of the TV and the fans unbearable.

Increasing exposure to noise first causes high-frequency sensory neural hearing loss, which results in a person often missing consonant syllables in a sentence. As a result, words like ‘plane’ are heard as ‘plate’, and ‘rope’ sounds like ‘crop’ to a person whose ‘cochlea’ (the inner part of the ear) gets partially damaged following exposure to high decibel sound. Other symptoms, like constant heaviness in the ears, are alarm signals of approaching deafness.

This issue, along with other associated problems, like upper respiratory tract infection giving rise to bronchial asthma caused by increasing environmental pollution in the city, has forced ENT specialists under the Association of Otolaryngologists of India (AOI) to plan a series of programmes to help Calcuttans save their ears from permanent damage. The first AOI workshop will begin at Salt Lake on Monday.

According to data available with the AOI in Calcutta, most patients complaining of deafness are turning out to be young engineers working in manufacturing units, or businessmen with small-scale factories.

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