Long use of mobile phones leading to hearing disorders: PGIMER - Hindustan Times
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Long use of mobile phones leading to hearing disorders: PGIMER

By, Chandigarh
May 20, 2024 08:46 PM IST

Otolaryngologist Dr Sanjay Munjal stressed that children should not use gadgets for more than an hour a day. His department offers various therapies, including speech stimulation, and they have submitted a project to the ICMR for a comprehensive study on this matter.

Doctors at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) have seen a concerning correlation between prolonged screen time among children and the development of delayed speech and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As screens become increasingly ubiquitous in day-to-day life, the doctors are also investigating the potential impact on development of children.

Dr Munjal noted that many children were referred to his department after an initial diagnosis by pediatricians and psychiatrists, especially for autism. (HT file photo for representation)
Dr Munjal noted that many children were referred to his department after an initial diagnosis by pediatricians and psychiatrists, especially for autism. (HT file photo for representation)

In a recent project submitted to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) by PGIMER’s Otolaryngology (ENT) department, it has been submitted that cases of delayed speech among children are rising, as are the number of patients with hearing disorders between the age of 15 and 30, due to excessive use of electronic gadgets like mobile phones, tablets, gaming devices and screen use.

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Dr Sanjay Munjal from the Otolaryngology department at PGI, Chandigarh, reported that over the past three to four years, the department has observed a rise in cases of children experiencing delayed speech and limited language skills, as well as an increase in autism cases, particularly after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Previously, only one to two cases were typical, but recent trends indicate a concerning escalation, potentially tied to heightened screen time exposure.

Dr Munjal explained that playing games and watching screens on phones and tablets involve one-way communication, whereas speech requires two-way interaction. As a result, children’s speech development is being affected. Reduced social interactions and excessive screen time prevent young children from getting the necessary stimulation in their first two years of life.

Dr Munjal noted that many children were referred to his department after an initial diagnosis by pediatricians and psychiatrists, especially for autism.

He emphasised that parents need to be aware of the signs and symptoms, particularly in children aged one to six. Children are using more gestures to communicate because their basic needs are being met without using language.

Excessive use of gadgets reduced human interaction, and the decline of the joint family system all contribute to these issues.

Dr Munjal stressed that children should not use gadgets for more than an hour a day. His department offers various therapies, including speech stimulation, and they have submitted a project to the ICMR for a comprehensive study on this matter.

Dr Munjal explains that talking on mobile phones for long periods and using headphones too much are major causes of hearing problems. Using these devices for more than two hours could lead to hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) because the electromagnetic radiation from phones affects the tissues. Many patients come to the hospital too late, after a lot of damage has already been done, so they often have to rely on hearing aids. This situation could have been prevented with earlier intervention.

Dr Munjal explained that excessive daily use of headphones was a leading cause of hearing loss because headphones emit sounds much higher than the safe limit of 85 decibels (dB). He advised that if the volume increases, the usage time should decrease: 90 dB should not be used for more than four hours, 95 dB for two hours, and 100 dB for one hour.

As children today are exposed to gadgets from an early age, they experience hearing damage sooner. The first symptom is often a ringing sound in the ears, known as tinnitus.

Dr Munjal recommended avoiding long phone calls, using speakerphone, not listening to music at high volumes for long periods, and minimising exposure. If any symptoms occur, consult a doctor immediately, he added.

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