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Foul air bad news for ears

Pollution can cause infection and hearing loss
Doctors at Thursday’s news conference

Our Special Correspondent   |   Calcutta   |   Published 07.11.19, 09:02 PM

Poor air quality not only impacts the lungs but can also affect the ears and lead to reduced hearing, swelling and pain, doctors said on Thursday.

Complaints of congestion in the chest, throat and ear have been on the rise over the past couple of weeks, doctors said, attributing it to the worsening air quality.

Air pollution doesn’t have a direct bearing on the ears, but it infects the nose, which in turn infects the ears, said an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist. Nose allergy and asthma can spread and trigger ear infection that may even affect hearing temporarily.

“We have noticed that the city’s air quality deteriorates as winter sets in. The ears could be infected by the poor air quality because of a nose infection,” said Utpal Jana, a professor in the ENT department of the College of Medicine and Sagore Dutta Hospital.

“Any infection in the nose can spread to the ears though the Eustachian tube, which connects the nose and the ears,” he said.

The city’s air quality has remained “moderate”, “poor” and “very poor” for almost a month now, slipping from “safe” and “satisfactory” levels. The dip could lead to breathing trouble and respiratory illness among residents.

The doctors also spoke about the impact of sound pollution on the ears. Dwaipayan Mukherjee, a visiting surgeon at Columbia Asia Hospital, said a sudden and massive rise in the noise level could also lead to a ruptured eardrum.

“During Kali Puja or Diwali, people burst firecrackers that produce more than 100 decibel sound. A sudden bursting of cracker can even rupture the eardrums of a person standing close to the point of bursting,” Mukherjee said.

A traumatic perforation in the eardrum is curable but damage to auditory nerves could cause permanent loss of hearing.

“If one has a ruptured eardrum, water or oil should not be poured into the ear. That would kill chances of recovery,” Mukherjee said.

The doctors pointed out that persistent exposure to very high noise levels could damage the auditory nerves. People exposed to high noise levels over a long period are more at risk because they do not even realise the threat as the damage is gradual. Exposure to noise levels of 85 decibel or above for years can cause permanent deafness.

Noise pollution also affect mental health, Jana said. People exposed to high-noise levels feel irritated and cannot concentrate.


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