It is astonishing how
some people subject their ears to assault. Teenagers and young people in
their early twenties are particularly guilty of this.
From listening to
extremely loud music to having their ears glued to headphones all day long,
many people are not aware of the subtle but serious injuries they inflict on
their ears until it is too late.
Experts are warning that
going deaf hardly happens suddenly, except when it’s due to trauma or an
accident that affects the eardrums. But, certain pastimes, they say, can
spell the doom of any ear when caution is thrown to the wind.
When you hear a ringing,
roaring, clicking or hissing sound in your ears rather frequently, then you may
already have tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a sound in
one or both ears. It could come as buzzing, ringing, or whistling sounds that
occur without an external stimulus.
Ear, nose and throat
experts say tinnitus is usually caused by a specific condition, such as an ear
infection, the use of certain drugs, a blocked auditory tube or a head injury.
Again, certain health
problems such as allergies, tumours, problems in the heart, blood vessels, jaws
and neck can also cause tinnitus.
Apart from being a
symptom of other health problems, tinnitus is also a symptom associated with
many forms of hearing loss.
According to Consultant
Audiologist, Dr. Eugene Aboh, hearing loss can also be due to inappropriate use
of ototoxic drugs.
“Ototoxic drugs have
harmful effects on the organs or nerves concerned with hearing and balance.
They are more than 200 in the category. They include the antibiotic
Gentamicin,” Aboh says.
She notes that people
are reporting hearing loss at much younger ages and in large numbers. “It is
not just an issue among seniors,” she states.
paediatrician, Dr. Bolajoko Olusanya, laments that six out of 1,000 babies born
in the developing world have otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear,
characterised by pain, dizziness and impaired hearing) at birth. By age six
when they start school, 13.9 per cent have hearing problems as a result of
other environmental problems.
By the time people enter
the teenage years, Olusanya says, the noise decibel introduced into the ears
via headphones, loud music and related stuff could lead to hearing impairment.
“A child may develop
hearing impairment when s/he suffers neonatal jaundice and viral infections or
when the mother uses certain drugs in pregnancy,” she warns.
According to the World
Health Organisation, 278 million people worldwide have moderate-to-profound
hearing loss in both ears.
The importance of loss
of hearing is underscored by the dedication of the entire month of May, every
year, to the marking of the Hearing Health Awareness.
The situation is so
grim, according to a retrospective study of the impact of ototoxicity in the
auditory system in Nigeria.
The research revealed
that 727 out of 2,037 patients were identified with hearing problems associated
with ototoxicity, while people aged between one and 21 years were more
vulnerable to sensory neural hearing loss than other age categories and other
types of hearing loss associated with ototoxicity.
Experts note that in the
United States of America, for instance, about 36 million people, cutting across
all age groups, suffer one form of hearing impairment or the other.
“Hearing loss is the
third worst affliction Americans suffer, apart from heart problems and
diabetes, in that order,” experts say.
If this is so in a
developed country like America, what do you think is the case in a developing
country like Nigeria?
According to the Medical
Officer, Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Impairment, World Health
Organisation, Andrew Smith, noise-induced hearing loss is the second or third
most important cause of hearing impairment in the developing countries.
This, Smith says,
indicates that the problem is serious and most likely to be a growing one.
Worse still, Olusanya, supported by WHO, says there is a serious shortage of
accurate epidemiological data relating to noise-induced hearing loss throughout
the world, but particularly in developing countries.
Olusanya, who also
specialises in paediatric audiology and learning disabilities, notes that to
get round the problem, people should stop patronising unregistered pharmacies
whenever they need to be attended to by a doctor. She advises people to use
only the drugs prescribed by the doctor.
She also discourages the
cleaning of the ear with cotton buds. “This is because cleaning the ears with
cotton buds actually upsets the delicate balance of the ear,” the physician
She adds, “The human ear
has a natural cleansing mechanism, and attempting to remove the wax, which has
anti-bacterial properties, will make it susceptible to bacterial infection.”
The price of hearing
impairment is high, experts warn. The affected individual is limited in
vocational opportunity, they say; while the nation suffers the loss of that
individual’s contribution to national growth.
They recommend less
exposure to noise, saying that exposure to sound level that is 85 decibels or
over in an eight-hour period should be avoided, as this may result in hearing