Sep 5, 2009

Lend me your ears

As an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist my clinical work comprises both medical treatment and surgery. Let me state the outset that the disease pattern in our society is somewhat different than the rest of the world due to a lifestyle unique to our part of the world.

Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect about ENT diseases in our society is the fact that many people continue to suffer from diseases which are preventable. Take for example, oral sub mucous fibrosis, a disease caused by chewing beetle nut, an integral ingredient found in paan, mithi chalia, gutka etc.

Betel nut gradually restricts the mouth’s ability to open to such an extent that eventually the patient is restricted a liquid only diet. Complications of the disease can lead to cancers of the mouth. Tragically, this disease is more common in young patient as the habit of chewing chalia is becoming increasingly prevalent in this age group.

Another group of patients that I come across are children studding to become hufaz in madaris and who are required to recite the Holy Quran in a loud voice. This excessive use or the incorrect projection of the voice strains the vocal cords and results in hoarseness or voice fatigue caused by the formation of nodules.

What is even more tragic is the fact that the disease can be prevented through the correct use of he voice and temporary abstinence.

The use of cotton buds or Q-tips to clean the ear after bating is also common. As cotton buds are inexpensive and easily available heir use is taken as harmless which could not be further from the truth.

Injuries scratches to the ear canal, bleeding due to trauma, pain in the ear due to an infection and in extreme cases rupture of the ear drum are some of the harmful effects of suing cotton buds. To make maters worse if by chance a cotton bud is not available at the time when there is an urge to scratch the ear, keys, hairpins or matchsticks are used as alternatives. The simple advice not to use cotton bud at all is generally not acceptable to patients.

Among the vulnerable are those who live, work, or do business in noisy streets and music livers using headphones. The hearing loss permanent and the only way to rehabilitate are by the use of hearing aids.

All these factors underline the importance of creating awareness in our society about issues such as noise pollution and the fact that in many cases our suffering is of our won making.

The writer is Associate Professor, Department of Ear Nose Throat Diseases, Ziauddin University Karachi.

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