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Study Links Cell Phone Use to Hearing Loss, Inner Ear Damage

Can you hear me now?

Maybe not, if you use your cell phone for more than 60 minutes a day, a new study finds.

According to research presented at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation’s Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO in Washington, D.C. this week, people who used their phones for more than 60 minutes a day had a worse hearing threshold than those with less use.

The study, Audiological Disturbances in Long-Term Mobile Phone Users, was presented at the conference by Dr. Naresh Panda, head of India's ENT department. Panda and his team found those who used their phone for more than an hour each day, for more than four years, had noticeable losses in high frequency hearing.

Long-term use of a cell phone also may cause inner ear damage and can lead to high frequency hearing loss, researchers found.

One hundred cell phone users took part in the study.

High frequency hearing loss is characterized by the loss of ability to hear consonants such as s, f, t, and z, even though vowels can be heard normally. Consequently, people hear sounds but cannot make out what is being said, according to the researchers.

The authors warn users of cell phones to look out for ear symptoms such as ear warmth, ear fullness, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus) as early warning signs of an auditory abnormality.

Panda also suggested the use of earphones, which were found to be safer than holding a mobile phone up to the ears.