We know this is what was going through your head as your were nursing that BlackBerry thumb. Know what? It might be time for a trip to the doc again.
1. Can iPods cause hearing damage?
It’s a logical assumption: you blast Lady Gaga at full volume through your iPod ear buds all the way through your daily gym routine, your hearing gets affected over a period of time (if you’re a gym bunny, that is. If you’re not, let’s just say you’ve got more than just your ears to worry about). Right? Wrong!
"There are lots of problems associated with listening to music at loud volumes, like ear aches. But the truth is that in clinical practice, there is no direct correlation between loud iPods and hearing loss," says Dr Shomeshwar Singh, consultant ENT and cochlear implant surgeon, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon. "Devices like iPods are designed with user safety in mind. So, no, average listeners will not suffer from diminished hearing even if they are plugged in a couple of hours every day."
What you can get however, is a condition called tinnitus, in which you can hear strange ringing sounds in your ears when it is quiet. "This is usually temporary and goes away on its own with time," says Dr Singh. "There is no treatment, but in rare cases, it can be permanent." Prolonged use of earphones can also lead to buildup of ear wax so severe in some cases that the only way to remove it is – gulp – through surgery.
Use soft earbuds or comfy over-the-ears muffs, advises Dr Singh. Other than that, you’re safe – as long as you don’t drive or cross the road with your headphones on, of course.
2. Do tablets cause neck pain?
Have you got ‘iPad neck’ yet? A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health published in January is among the first to look at the possible ergonomic impacts of Tablet use – and there’s both good and bad news in store.
The bad news is that most common ways of holding and using Tablets seem to put considerable strain on your neck muscles – especially compared to typical desktop computing setups.
“The neck has seven bones called the cervical vertebrae,” says Dr Manoj Sharma, chairman at the department of orthopedic and spine surgery, Jaipur Golden Hospital, New Delhi. “All of them are connected with two joints on the side. When you look down at a Tablet that’s on your lap or flat on a table in front of you for long periods of time, you put considerable stress on these joints.”
The symptoms: persistent headache on the back of your head and axial neck pain that can go down all the way into the shoulder blades and the arms. “Cervical spondilysis, which once affected only people over 40 is now common in most young patients under 20 who I treat,” says Dr Sharma.
Next time you’re watching a movie on your iPad, help your neck muscles by propping up the Tablet against a heavy object (we like ours against a stack of books) and putting it more or less at eye level.
What’s the good news? Tablet users seem to shift position and move around more than laptop and desktop users. Phew!
3. Can laptops sizzle your thighs?
The next time you’ve had that beast of a laptop running for several hours at a stretch, put your hand underneath – that’s scorching, isn’t it? Today’s laptops stuff powerful processors and high-speed hard-drives inside razor-thin chassis. They give off huge amounts of heat, which can raise the temperature of your laptop to a sizzling 52 degree Celsius in some cases.
So what happens if you prop up the machine on your lap for long hours? Toasted Skin Syndrome, a nettle-sting-like rash on your thighs. The American Academy of Pediatrics journal issued last year listed about 10 laptop-related cases from medical journals over the last six years.
In one report, a 12-year-old boy developed a sponge-patterned skin discoloration on his left thigh after playing computer games for a few hours every day for several months. A second case described a law student who spent six hours a day working with her computer in her lap. The affected skin resembled skin damaged by long-term sun exposure.
That said, it’s time to bust a myth: “Yes it’s true that laptops can be causes of heat-related burns,” says Dr Aniruddha Malpani, infertility specialist at Malpani Infertility Clinic, Mumbai. “But you know what they can’t do? Affect male fertility!” The human testes lie outside the body because their temperature needs to be kept about three degrees lower than the rest of the body for optimum sperm production.
“So it’s logical to assume that a hot laptop affects sperm,” says Malpani. “However, there have been no conclusive scientific studies that have proved this yet. Sperm counts fluctuate all the time, even if you never use a laptop. So it’s no reason to worry!”
Meanwhile, get a cooling pad to put underneath your laptop – or just place it on a table. Your skin will thank you.
4. Do smartphones cause wrinkles?
Remember the study that came out a few months ago saying that squinting at smartphone screens too much gives you wrinkles? Dr Chiranjiv Chhabra, consultant dermatologist and director at the Skin Alive Clinic, New Delhi, tells us to take that one with a pinch of salt.
“What certainly happens, however, is that your jawline sags; your cheeks get pulled forward; and the neck may develop folds, all as a result of staring down at the phone too much”, she says. If you stare down at your phone for about three hours everyday – and most of us use our phones way more than that – over a period of three years the effects on the face are strikingly visible.
And if that isn’t enough to convince you to cut down on your phone time, there’s more bad news: overuse can actually age the area around the eyes and make them look dull and aged, claims Dr Chhabra.
5. Can screens hurt eyes?
How many screens do you have around you? We can count three around us this very minute: the computer screen this is being typed on, a smartphone on the desk and an iPod Touch (we left the Tablet at home today, but that’s yet another screen when it’s around).
Staring at these screens constantly is like shining a bright light right into your eyes. And it’s worse when you decide to fire up a movie on your iPad and watch it in the dark.
“Radiation from these screens is not harmful to the eyes but can certainly fatigue them. This can cause strain, dry eyes and itchiness”, says Dr Kinshuk Biswas, senior consultant in ophthalmology at the Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon.
To keep your eyes healthy, he recommends closing them for a minute every half an hour you spend in front of a screen. And if you do want to seek refuge in the dark, turn the screens off (there’s more fun stuff to do in the dark, trust us!).
Top 3 cell phone myths debunked
1. Cell phones cause brain cancer: Despite reams of newsprint being devoted to the topic, let’s get this clear: there is no credible evidence that exposure to electromagnetic fields emitted from cell phones or other personal electronic devices can cause cancer.
2. Keeping a cell phone in the pocket can cause a drop in sperm count for men: No. Relax.
3. Reading on a cell phone screen for long periods of time can lead to bad eyesight: Eye strain, yes. But bad eyesight? Let’s just say that smartphones haven’t been around long enough to prove that.
From HT Brunch, June 17
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