With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing professionals to work from home and students to attend classes online using earphones, doctors are now getting more patients with complaints of pain, irritation and infection in the ears.
According to medical experts, the use of headphones and earpods for long hours in the last seven to eight months has increased such complaints.
“All these complaints are directly linked to extensive use of headphones at higher volume,” Dr Shrinivas Chavan, head of the ENT department at the government-run J J Hospital in Mumbai.
Every day, five to 10 people are turning up at the J J Hospital’s Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department with such complaints, he said.
“Most of them are working for more than eight hours wearing headphones. This is putting a lot of stress on their ears and unsterilised earpods or ear-plugs could spread infection. Continuous listening at higher sound volume for long hours is weakening the listening ability also,” he said.
If people do not change their habits, they could face “permanent damage” to their ears, Dr Chavan warned. He said the wax inside the ear kills the bacteria naturally and prevents infection.
Use of cotton buds to clean ears removes this protective wax covering and exposes the inner part of the ear to bacterial infections. This generally leads to earaches, he said.
Asked how such infections could be avoided, he said, “We have been advising people to remove earphones from time-to-time. Fresh air should go inside the ears to keep them safe.”
Dr Rahul Kulkarni, head of the ENT unit at St George Hospital here, said ear problems are not just related to working professionals, but school children who have to attend online classes are also having such complaints.
“Ideally, school children should not be using headphones at all. If they are attending classes on laptop or personal computers, then the device volume is sufficient,” he said.