Work from home, online classes and the rise in the number of people spending time on OTT platforms have led to an increase in the use of headphones or earphones causing ear problems.
Srishti Gaurav, an employee of a private company, shared: “I work from home from 9 am to 7 pm. I get a one-hour break. The rest of the time, I am on my earphone. I have started feeling a pain in my ears, but I cannot avoid using them. They have become a part of my life.”
The increase in cases of ear pain can also be attributed to the pandemic-induced online classes.
A school teacher, Sarita K, informed The Observer: “Online classes made me take classes continuously. This led to an increase in the duration of using earphones. Earlier, everything was fine; but, gradually, I felt problems. I had an ear infection and there used to be a wax-like discharge from my ears. The doctor advised me to stop using earphones.”
A lot of people experienced similar problems due to the overuse of earphones. The time spent on social media and OTT platforms, and working on phones and laptops, increased, leading to overuse of earphones.
For some, headphones became a necessity and then a habit.
Ishika Reddy, a undergraduate student, shared: “Apart from attending online classes, I started watching series on Netflix. For online classes, I started using headphones for five to six hours. And then, I watched shows. All this while, I used headphones which irritated me but I felt that these are a much better choice than earphones.”
Despite knowing the possible side-effects of prolonged use of earphones, people still use those citing reasons of work and leisure.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen an increase in the sales of headphones,” said Sumit Bhatla, owner of Sri Sai Electronics. “Most of our customers are professionals working from home and students attending online classes. Sales have increased by about 70 percent.”
According to Research and Markets, a market research store, the Indian headset market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 4.7 percent during 2021-2027.
Dr Rohit Kumar, a hearing and speech therapist, agrees that using headphones for a long time can cause serious health issues. “In recent times, cases of ear problems have increased. Schoolchildren faced issues like ear pain, discharge from ears, infections etc. The problems arose after things (education and work) went online,” he said, adding: “With advanced technology, people spend much of their time on screens, resulting in greater usage of earphones. They cause ear problems, headaches and can have a bad effect on the brain.”
Asked how one can minimize the risk of ear problems, he advised using good-quality headphones, and for short durations.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 50 percent of people aged 12-35 years, or 1.1 billion young people, are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices.