CHENNAI: In the month since the start of the school year, Dr Praveen Basker has seen a dozen children complaining about hearing a ringtone or feeling their ears are blocked.
The ENT specialist at Rela Hospital says there is a marked increase in the number of adults who also come with ear infections and problems such as ringing, clicking or ringing in the ears, difficulty hearing and earache.

“Most of these otitis externa can be attributed to prolonged use of headphones. Most students are hooked up for class and then for hours afterward. The ear needs a break, ”says Dr Basker. “The ear canal should not be blocked for prolonged periods, as this can lead to a build-up of earwax. Plus, headphones are prime surfaces for dirt. If it accumulates, it can lead to infection if it is not cleaned regularly, ”he adds.
The ear has sweat and sebaceous glands, so if you use the headphones for long hours without removing them, the sweat can cause bacteria to colonize, leading to infection, says MGM Healthcare ENT consultant Dr Sanjeev. Mohanty. “We’re also seeing more cases of tinnitus, which manifests as an annoying ringing sensation, almost like you have crickets in your ear. This too is exacerbated by the long hours of headphone use, ”he says. “When we test hearing, everything looks fine, but then we find that the hearing of high frequency sounds is affected. People with tinnitus can’t hear high-pitched sounds as well as they hear low-pitched sounds, ”says Dr. Mohanty.
Dr Basker suggests the “60 x 60 rule”: keep earphone volume below 60% and take a break every 60 minutes. “It can help prevent infections to some extent,” he explains. “Keep the sound at 60 decibels, which is a normal talking level. Anything above 85 decibels (the noise level of city traffic) is harmful, ”he says. “Headphones are a safer option than headphones because they leave some form of buffer space between the audio and the ear canal,” says Dr Basker.

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