Ways to pro­tect your hear­ing

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - VISTA - By Chen Xi­meng

As more and more chil­dren use ear­phones and head­phones to video or voice chat and lis­ten to mu­sic, dam­age from ev­ery­day loud noise among the younger gen­er­a­tion has seen a marked in­crease. Chi­nese youth to­day are at a higher risk of hear­ing prob­lems or hear­ing loss. But how can par­ents pro­tect them from de­vel­op­ing hear­ing prob­lems? What are the dan­ger signs? Met­ro­pol­i­tan talked with Mo Lingyan, chair of the ear, nose and throat (ENT) de­part­ment at Bei­jing United Fam­ily Hospi­tal (BJU) about this is­sue.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan: Can you ex­plain how you mea­sure the loud­ness or soft­ness of sound? Also, what’s the loud­est sound adults and chil­dren can tol­er­ate with­out dam­ag­ing the eardrum?

Mo Lingyan: An au­diome­ter, which can present tones of var­i­ous fre­quen­cies in var­i­ous in­ten­si­ties or loud­ness, is used to test one's hear­ing. By hav­ing the pa­tient raise their hand or press a but­ton to in­di­cate that they heard the sound, we can mea­sure the soft­est sound that a pa­tient can hear at each fre­quency in each ear. Usu­ally, sound at 100 deci­bels will cause pain in the ears.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan: What’s the ef­fect of us­ing head­phones and ear­phones for a long time? Can they cause hear­ing loss?

Mo Lingyan: Loud noise can dam­age our hear­ing by killing the hair cells in the hu­man hear­ing or­gan. The dam­age de­pends on the length of time the in­di­vid­ual is ex­posed to loud sounds and the loud­ness of the sound it­self. If the sound is too loud, one's hear­ing can be dam­aged in a sec­ond. But if it is not too loud, the du­ra­tion of ex­po­sure will de­ter­mine the de­gree of hear­ing loss. Take the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion (OSHA) reg­u­la­tion for per­mis­si­ble noise ex­po­sure as a ref­er­ence. The ex­po­sure time for sound at 85 deci­bels is 16 hours, and it is eight hours for sound at 90 deci­bels. It is the same for head­phone and ear­phone use.

To avoid noise-in­duced hear­ing loss, shorten the lis­ten­ing time for loud sounds. It is OK if the vol­ume is in the low and mid-range. How­ever, it is sug­gested that peo­ple not lis­ten to por­ta­ble lis­ten­ing de­vices in pub­lic areas like on buses or the sub­way be­cause these places are so noisy that they might turn the vol­ume very high to a point that can be harm­ful to their hear­ing with­out notic­ing. For ear care, wear­ing head­phones or ear­phones will in­crease the risk of in­fec­tion for peo­ple with sen­si­tive skin.

As for kids, hu­man hear­ing is fully de­vel­oped af­ter birth. So, hear­ing dam­age in kids is the same as that of adults. If the sound is un­com­fort­ably loud, it is usu­ally an in­di­ca­tor of harm­ful lev­els.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan: What are the symp­toms of hear­ing loss? Also, what are some of the ways to help the ear re­cover from par­tial hear­ing loss? Can loss of hear­ing be re­stored?

Mo Lingyan: For noise-in­duced hear­ing loss, de­pend­ing on how bad the ex­po­sure is, there will be ring­ing in the ears, muf­fled hear­ing or au­ral full­ness (a sen­sa­tion of block­age in the ear) af­ter noise ex­po­sure. It is ad­vised that peo­ple stay away from loud noises to pro­tect their hear­ing or help re­cover from noi­sein­duced hear­ing loss. For mild dam­age, it usu­ally takes 24 hours to re­cover. If there is no re­lief of symp­toms af­ter 24 hours, med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion is needed. If the dam­age is se­vere, hear­ing loss could only be par­tially re­stored or even ir­re­versible.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan: This sum­mer, many fam­i­lies will go to the beach and swim. What are the ways to pre­vent water from en­ter­ing the ear canal?

Mo Lingyan: Swim­ming in most swim­ming pools or the sea is not a prob­lem for healthy ear canal skin. How­ever, when there is repet­i­tive phys­i­cal or chem­i­cal ir­ri­ta­tion, such as scratch­ing or too much chlo­rine in a swim­ming pool, the risk of a bac­te­rial or fun­gal in­fec­tion in the ear canal in­creases. It is ad­vised that peo­ple plug their ears when they go swim­ming.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan: When is the best time to see an ENT spe­cial­ist?

Mo Lingyan: An ENT spe­cial­ist ap­point­ment is needed for noise-in­duced hear­ing loss, when there is ring­ing in the ears or when hear­ing loss or au­ral full­ness does not go away af­ter 24 hours fol­low­ing ex­po­sure to loud sounds.

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