Abu Dhabi: Kids could be at risk of hearing loss due to headphone overuse; doctor explains how to prevent it

At least 700 million people around the world will require access to ear and hearing care services by 2050, unless action is taken, according to World Health Organisation

by

Ashwani Kumar

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Reuters file photo
Reuters file photo

Published: Fri 13 Jan 2023, 5:25 PM

Last updated: Fri 13 Jan 2023, 7:34 PM

Prolonged exposure to loud sounds and excessive use of headphones — especially while playing video games — could lead to noise-induced hearing loss in children, an expert at the Abu Dhabi Health Service Company (Seha) has warned.

“Headphones have become an essential part of our daily lives. Ever since Covid-19 started, people have been using headphones to work from home, attend meetings, and students use them while studying or listening to music. Video gaming has become more of a to-and-fro communication. By playing online games, they can connect with those across the globe. Using headphones with microphones has become indispensable,” Dr Snithin Sasheendran, audiology team lead for the Ambulatory Healthcare Services (AHS), told Khaleej Times.


To enhance the gaming experience and make it more attractive to youngsters, loud sounds and simulations have been introduced — but long exposures to such noise through the use of earphones can have a negative impact on hearing.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent hearing impairment resulting from prolonged exposure to high levels of sound. It can come from several sources, including workplace noise exposure, concerts, and sporting events. The risk of extensive use of video games is still underestimated,” said Dr Sasheendran, chair of AHS education and research subcommittee, co-chair of Seha audiology advisory committee.


Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide ─ or one in four people ─ will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050, warned the World Health Organisation (WHO) through its 2021 report. At least 700 million of these people will require access to ear and hearing care and other rehabilitation services, unless action is taken.

He noted that a study was once done in Italy using an acoustic mannequin to understand the amount of sound going into a person’s ear while playing video games. This, he said, had produced alarming results.

“It’s shocking to know that the sound going into the ear can go up to as loud as 104 decibels to 118 decibels. The occupational health and safety guidelines state that a person who’s working in an environment with 115 decibels is safe only for 15 minutes. And the person who is playing the video game is unaware of this risk which is being caused to his hearing.”

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Hearing loss is preventable

Prolonged exposure to high decibels could cause damage to sensory cells in the ears, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss. Such an issue is preventable but several steps need to be taken, including early hearing detection through screenings.

Dr Sasheendran said the findings of school screening services showed that several students have ‘hidden hearing loss’ issues.

“We were able to identify that several children were having hearing loss, which was the reason why they were performing poorly at schools. They were not able to pay attention at home. And on detailed examination, we found out that it was from prolonged use of headphones while playing video games.”

Controlling the sound of a child's headphone, limiting the volume, using noise-cancelling headphones, wearing ear plugs in noisy areas are some of the ways to prevent hearing loss.

“There is a need to improve the awareness about noise-induced hearing loss, which is preventable. We need to emphasise on the importance of safe use of earphones, especially in children who play video games,” Dr Sasheendran added.

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