A new report released on Monday underscores the concerning impact of earphone addiction on the rise of hearing and speech disorders among Indians, including even young children.
The report, published by the Delhi branch of the Indian Speech & Hearing Association, derives its findings from an extensive door-to-door survey conducted in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) and Jammu & Kashmir, focusing on communication disorders.
According to Dr. Rajendra Pratap Gupta, a public health expert and former advisor to the Union Health Minister, the prevalence of communication disorders has surged to over 3%, but awareness levels remain disconcertingly low at around 11%. The report highlights a considerable increase in hearing impairment among the 19-25 years age group (41.2%) and the 26-60 years age group (69.4%).
Indiscriminate use of headphones/earphones demands immediate attention
Speaking at a gathering in the national capital, Dr. Gupta conveyed a compelling message: The indiscriminate use of headphones/earphones among the ‘mobile generation’ demands immediate attention. He cautioned that if unchecked, this trend could lead to an unfortunate reality where people will require ‘hearing aids’ instead of ‘headphones’.
The survey, conducted from May to June, involved a vast participant pool—53,801 individuals from 10,228 families in the Delhi-NCR region and over 6,000 individuals from 1,257 families in Jammu & Kashmir.
The survey outcomes indicate a prevalence rate of 3.05% for communication disorders in Delhi-NCR, 6.17% in Kashmir, and 2.4% in Jammu.
Delving into specific findings, the report reveals that speech sound disorders (SSD) have a higher prevalence in the 6-12 years age group (42.4%) and the 13-18 years age group (31.1%) in Delhi-NCR. Fluency disorders are more common among individuals aged 6-12 years (20.7%) and 13-18 years (17.1%), while language disorders show a higher prevalence among ages 0-5 years (69%) and 13-18 years (48.2%).
The report identifies varying prevalence rates for voice disorders across different age segments, with the highest rates observed in the 19-25 years age group (17%) and 13-18 years age group (11.6%).
Vestibular disorders are more prominent in the 26-60 years age group (8.7%), and multiple communication disorders are most apparent in ages 0-5 years (37%) and 6-12 years (33.9%).
In the context of Kashmir, the report highlights that 57.6% of females and 42.4% of males exhibit communication disorders, while in Jammu, 66.4% of males and 33.6% of females are affected by these disorders.
Dr. Gupta emphasized the importance of a multi-stakeholder strategy to raise awareness about the excessive use of mobile devices. He advocated for a larger pool of trained professionals to tackle the escalating burden of speech and hearing issues, recommending the inclusion of these disabilities in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and the implementation of a nationwide awareness campaign.
He concluded by stating that in the digital age, addressing the risk of speech and hearing disorders and the dearth of professionals in this field necessitates leveraging technology to foster awareness, facilitate screening, and provide treatment. Dr. Gupta, also the founder of the Health Parliament, a Health Think Tank, highlighted the urgency of this matter.