KAMPALA – It is almost impossible that you will talk to your neighbour while moving to or from work in Kampala.
Virtually everyone on Kampala’s streets has earphones plugged into their ears especially during the morning and evening rush hours as they head to their various destinations.
Some people plugin to listen to music, their favourite radio programs, comics, recorded files while others are actually communicating with their associates.
During such times, the city is filled with all sorts of sounds coming from automobile engines, welding machines, street preachers and loud conversations between peers as well as taxi touts giving directions to their passengers.
Probably, it is for this reason that many people in cities like Kampala are developing the trend of plugging in earphones, earbuds, air pods, and headsets to shield themselves from such noise.
Earbuds are small audio output devices that are fixed directly into the user’s ears.
They have been most popularly known to be wired but a wireless version that connects to the phone via applications like Bluetooth has recently hit the gadget market.
Headphones, on the other hand, differ from earbuds. They are larger in size and they cover the whole outer ear without getting fixed inside the ear. They can be wired or wireless.
It is very common today that at least five of every ten people you meet in Kampala have headphones over their heads or earbuds need in their ears especially in public means of transport like taxi, buses and on motorcycles.
The trend is growing at an alarming rate and it has now been fueled by the smartphone craze because the phone allows the owner to carry around music, videos, comics all on one device simultaneously.
However, apart from shielding away unwanted sounds and increasing the levels of concentration on a particular subject of interest, audio accessories can dangerously impair the user’s sense of hearing.
Doctor Robert Dorbie a Clinical Professor at the University of Texas’ Health Science Center in San Antonio USA explains clearly that playing loud music and sounds in earbuds could have adverse effects which may affect the victim direly.
“You can certainly hurt your hearing while listening to loud music through earbuds,” he warns.
In addition, Prof Dorbie further warns against using earbuds that go too far in the ear especially those that are sharp-pointed because they are connected closely to the which are very sensitive to the hearing system.
Ronald Kagoda, 32, a resident of Nansana in Wakiso district says he almost lost his ears to the earphones.
“It reached a time when I couldn’t hear someone speak in a low tone. I could also hear voices calling my name even when I was at home alone,” he said.
Kagoda is only one of the many people at risk of becoming deaf gradually without noticing.
Prof. Charles Liberman, who is the Director of Peabody Laboratories in Massachusetts in America reveals more signs one can use to tell that loud music is injuring them.
” Hearing ringing in your ears or the world around you sounding a little muffled is a sign that you are doing damage to your ears. ” he clarified.
Prof Liberman points out that many people lose their hearing without noticing because it is largely a gradual process.
Other causes of hearing loss include extremely loud explosions, gunfire, diseases like malaria and measles, accidents, defects at birth among others.
On a worrying note, some professions require frequent use of audio devices in order to have the job done. This certainly exposes the worker openly to the side effects of these audio accessories.
Such jobs include; Disk Jockeys (DJs) Video Jockeys, VJs, customer care call centre attendants of telecom companies, pilots, radio presenters, sports commentators among others.
Audio accessories have also had a recognizable contribution to the increasing number of road accidents in cities.
The attention span of drivers is shared between driving and listening through the headphones especially when one is taking a phone call.
Although traffic laws in Uganda prohibit driving while speaking on the phone, the wireless devices have made it quite simple for drivers to pick up calls disguising as if they are listening to recorded files.
According to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), 360 million people are suffering from hearing impairment. Of these, sixty-five percent are below the age of fifty-five.
WHO also warns that 1.1billion youths and young adults across the world are facing the risk of contracting a hearing defect from excessive use of audio devices.
Two-thirds of this vulnerable and susceptible population live in developing countries.
In Uganda, over two million people suffer from hearing loss following statistics released by the Ministry of Health in March 2019.
As the saying goes that history repeats itself, the trending output devices are not new to human notice, back in the 1980s, people used such devices that came along the Sony Walkman radios.
Compiled by Cosmas Ssegirinya