The cacophony that marks the arrival of Diwali is yet to begin in the city, but the wait is bittersweet for many, considering the havoc it creates on some of our more sensitive organs - especially the ear.
"Depending on the intensity of the noise, crackers can cause mild to lasting injuries to ears. When it's a mild injury, people lose almost 40 to 50 per cent of their hearing ability. This lasts for about two to three hours, and sometimes, maybe even a week. A lot of the cases that we receive post Diwali, suffer from permanent hearing loss due to direct exposure to loud and sudden noise," says Dr Bathi Reddy, head of ENT department, Manipal Hospital.
Human ears can only tolerate sounds upto 85 decibels but the sounds of most crackers exceed 140 decibels. According to Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), bursting crackers of more than 125 decibels is an offence and bursting crackers from 10 pm to 6 am is prohibited.
According to Dr Reddy, the inner ear and the ear drums are the parts that are most affected by high decibel levels. "Any loud sound leads to a temporary shift in threshold and the recovery from it can take some time. But if it is more serious, the effect can be permanent," says Dr Reddy.
There are basically two kinds of hearing loss - conductive hearing loss and sensory neural loss. "The conductive hearing loss involves the ear drums and the ossicular assembly, which are tiny bones inside the ear. The sensory neural loss is related to the cochlea or the inner ear," says Dr H R Hariram, a consultant ENT surgeon, who works with various hospitals in Koramangala.
He suggests the use of ear muffs and ear plugs to protect ears from high intensity sounds and the blast waves that travel from the crackers.
"The manufacture of these high decibel crackers must be stopped. Innocent bystanders get hurt and it is never the fault of these victims. People light crackers on the road and run away, and some unassuming passerby bears the brunt of the loud noises emitted by these firecrackers. Anything above 100 decibels should definitely not be acceptable," says Dr Reddy.