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Headsets affecting ear health

Written by  Chimwemwe Milulu

Statistics show that most young people, especially in urban centres worldwide are using head-phones to listen to their favorite music or podcasts. Sales of phones and head-phones are going up. We are really a Gadget Generation.


Some people use small headsets that penetrate into the ear canal and others big studio-like ones when walking or cycling and can hardly hear anything else including horns when on the road.

Director of Audiology at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Dr Courtney Caron, says noise such as loud music can cause damage to the listeners’ hearing.

‘Any loud noise can damage the one’s sense of hearing temporarily or permanently,’ says Dr. Courtney Caron who is an American audiologist.

Research by Hear the World in UK shows that people are frequently listening to their music players at a level that is too high.

As a result, teenagers worldwide are now experiencing the same hearing problems as their parents’ generation as a result of listening to loud music, mostly through earphones.

‘For countries like Malawi with a small economy, it will be difficult to purchase hearing aids for many people that would become deaf in this way. The best is to avoid listening to music at high volume. After all, the ear was designed to be open. We could be doing our ears a lot of harm by putting on headphones, and for a long time for that matter,’ Dr. Courtney adds.

A random survey conducted in Mzuzu City shows that most of the people use the head-sets to listen to music at more than 50% of the total volume and most of them are not aware of the implications.

According to Dr. Owen Msopole, Zonal Health Officer responsible for the Northern Region of Malawi, the sharing of headphones, especially those that penetrate into the eardrum can enhance the growth of bacteria in the ears which can lead to an ear infection.

Ear experts at Hear the World say since people with good hearing have tiny hair cells that line their inner ear which transmit signals to the brain for interpretation, listening to loud music flattens them and can cause some ringing or buzzing in the ears, which is a temporary threshold shift or permanent damage to the ears in the long run.

And this is perpetuated by listening to songs on MP3s which can play 100,000 non stop music which one can listen to for the whole day.

The report further indicates that MP3s have the ability to blast 104 decibels straight into the ears- equivalent to standing next to a pneumatic drill. In fact, any level above 90 decibels can cause long-term damage to hearing.

The damage is not instantaneous. It can take months or years for the effect to become apparent.
As one of the important senses, ears need care and rest and a good diet can also help stave off hearing loss.

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