Kolkata: The festival of lights became nightmarish for many, leading to tinnitus or temporary deafness. A survey by city ENT specialists reveals that tinnitus that tinnitus spiked to 27%, two days after Diwali, as reported by TOI. The figure is worrying because epidemiologic studies all over the world show that the prevalence range from 10-15%.
Tinnitus is the hearing of a sound despite the absence of any external noise. It is often a buzzing, ringing, clicking or hissing noise.
The survey titled “after-effects of sound pollution caused by bursting crackers during Diwali”, led by Arjun Dasgupta, and conducted by Anupama Satpathy, NVK Mohan and Chirajit Dutta, shows incidence rates of clinically significant tinnitus was 27 % post Diwali, in a sample of 204 patients. The survey is part of a larger study to catch a two-year trend, starting this Diwali.
The doctors conducted a trial in the busy OPD of Medica Superspeciality hospital and in some diagnostic centres in south and central Kolkata, two days after Diwali. The patients were given a format with multiple-choice questions related to side effects. Their families were also given similar formats. The age-group was 20 to 80 years and the patients came from various occupational backgrounds. Results revealed that 27 % suffered from tinnitus and temporary hearing loss.
“Our survey, which is only pilot project ahead of a bigger research, shows that despite rigorous campaigns against sound crackers, people are insensitive as ever,” said Dasgupta, adding, that “the study has obvious limitations; the data reported here underestimates the number of cases of tinnitus that drives people to seek health care.” The survey, in fact, is a prelude to an extensive research, spread over two years on the rate of tinnitus and other sound-causing ailment, to address the issue and provide effective care that is tailored to the needs of each individual.
The doctors feel tinnitus is more challenging than other health conditions because there is no objective measurement of the condition, no consensus regarding diagnostic assessment, and no standardization of the management pathway. “This is a common problem because of the continuous exposure to loud sound that we are subjected to during Kali Puja and Diwali. Sometimes there is permanent damage. But’s it’s a little frustrating because absolute remedy is not possible. One must depend on certain medications, holistic therapies, tinnitus retaining therapy, hearing aid and so on for prolonged treatment,” said Shantanu Panja, senior ENT consultant, Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals.
According to Shakaeb Yasser Khan, consultant, ENT surgeon, CMRI Hospital, stringent action and a holistic approach is the need-of-the-hour. “Even though the percentage of cases of tinnitus here is high, it’s a variable figure, and a study on the cross-section would have shown a lower rate of those affected. But even if there Diwali is less noisier than it was 10 years ago, the sound pollution has not come down to the level it should have. I think crackers should be banned completely.” Khan also called for greater awareness on the part of the people and the governments.
The youngest victim was a three-year-old girl whose father was bursting crackers with her in his lap. She was brought to hospital and diagnosed with severe tinnitus. Then there were senior citizens who had suffered from severe noise trauma that caused a severe blockage of ears, followed by tinnitus. Several patients complained of tinnitus, blockage and deafness immediately after bursting crackers during Diwali.
Said Anupama Satpathy, who was part of the survey team, “Louder the noise, shorter is the time it requires to harm. There are legislations that say continuous exposure to noise up to 90 dB should not be allowed beyond eight hours a day, or they “Loud noise can trigger problems like irritation, headache, insomnia, stress, hearing loss and tinnitus, especially in those previously exposed to noise-induced trauma like military conflicts or occupational noise. Especially vulnerable are infants and the elderly.”
Noise standards for fire crackers have been notified in GSR no.682 (E) dated 5 October 1999 under the Environment (Protection) Act. According to it, manufacture, sale or use of fire crackers generating noise levels exceeding 125 dB (AI) or 145 dB at four metres distance from the point of bursting are prohibited.