We all have become used to the sounds we hear in everyday life. Loud music, television, people talking on phone, traffic and even barking pets. All these sounds have become a part of our lives. But when the traffic or television sound keeps us away from sleeping or gives us a headache, this noise stops being a noise and is now called as NOISE POLLUTION. Noise has physical, physiological and psychological connotations, all of which differ. Physically it is a complex sound which can be measured. Physiologically it is defined as a signal which has no information and whose intensity varies in time. Psychologically noise is any sound, irrespective of its waveform, which is unpleasant or unwanted.
In India the large scale noise, due to heavy traffic movement, industrial operations and many community activities, have been established to be major environmental hazards because they interfere with hearing and speech communication, cause distraction, annoyance and lastly hearing loss.
Decibel is the unit which is used to measure the intensity of sound. Some of the common sounds and their decibel ratings are: #whisper – 15 db
# normal conversation -60db
# heavy road traffic -90 db
# rail traffic at 30m- 100 db
#jet aircraft take off at 300m – 110db
# rock concert- 120 db
NOISE PRODUCING SOURCES
1. Industrial source- Factories and industries are the other main contributors of noise production. Its intensity and nature depends upon the type of industry. Many industries use big machines, generators, exhaust fans, compressors and grinding mills which produce big noise. This is confined to small regions where with proper care and design its effect can be minimized.
2. Traffic and transportation- It produces a lot of noise. This problem is more in metro cities. Different types of vehicles and aircrafts produce different levels of noise. Supersonic airplanes create shock waves called SONIC BOON which produce a startle effect that can be more harmful than a continuous noise. The biggest menace everyone facing nowadays is sound of horns. Some people have the habit of blowing horns unnecessarily which causes a lot of noise pollution.
3. Religious, social and community activities- We Indians are noisy people and every sentiment and occasion is manifested in a noisy manner. Some of the human activities like blaring of loud speakers and sirens, shouting of hawkers, night music clubs, musical instruments, TV, radios, telephones, dog barking, home appliances like air coolers, washing machines, pressure cookers and vacuum cleaners produce a lot of unwanted noise. Patients in hospitals and children studying at home get affected a lot. Different sources of noise levels create 3 zones:- safer zone- < 80db, critical zone- between 85 to 95 db, danger zone- > 95 db. We Indians mostly live in critical and danger zone.
4. Construction activities- Building of dams, bridges, flyovers also creates a lot of noise.
EFFECTS OF NOISE POLLUTION ON HEALTH
Noise pollution has auditory as well as non auditory effects on body. Some individuals are more susceptible to noise induced hearing loss than others.
Cochlea is a snail shaped organ in the inner ear. Noise pollution affects the hair cells of the cochlea. This damage may be temporary or permanent.
The auditory effects are:
a). Temporary hearing loss occurs immediately after exposure to a high level of noise. There is gradual recovery when the affected person spends some time in quite place. Complete recovery may take several hours.
b). Permanent hearing loss progresses constantly as noise exposure continues month after month and year after year. The hearing impairment is noticeable only when it is substantial enough to impair the routine activities. At this stage a permanent and irreversible hearing damage has occurred. This damage cannot be cured by any kind of medical treatment and worsens as noise exposure continues.
c). Tinnitus means ringing or buzzing in ears.
Sound may directly stimulate or cause activation of the autonomic nervous system to such an extent that it endangers health.
The Non- auditory effects are :
a). Sleep disturbances
b). Behavioural development in children including delayed cognitive development because of interference with speech perception. Behaviour of teachers may also be affected by noise leading to less competent instruction.
C). Hypertension ( Raised blood pressure)
d). Psychological effects like Mental tension, Uneasiness, Irritability, Anxiety, Headache, Insomnia, Tiredness, Stress, Sweating and Giddiness.
MEASURES TO CONTROL NOISE POLLUTION
We can control noise pollution by adopting the following steps at our level and on government levels.
1). Complete ban on loud sound horns on motor bikes.
2). Less use of loud speakers at public places.
3). Complete ban on old cars and bikes.
4). Ban on processions and loud election campaigns.
5). A silence zone should be created in every city near schools, hospitals and residential areas.
6). In industries loud sound producing machines should be kept in separate sound proof rooms.
7). Complete ban on use of generator in residential areas or compulsory use of noise free generators.
8). Hearing protection equipment like ear plugs and ear muffs should be used by workers.
9). Hearing abilities of employees should be periodically checked by the management.
10). Noise pollution control act should be followed by every citizen and industrial management.
11). Public and student awareness programme should be organized through news media, lecture, workshops.
12).Anti noise lobbies or committees should be formed In cities by the citizens against the frequent use of loud speakers, high frequency crackers etc.
In India, till now the efforts and movement against noise pollution and their ill effects on man is very weak because most of us do not consider noise as a pollution, but as a routine life. So we all Indians should pledge and work together so that we all live in a noiseless environment.
…by Dr. Rupali Jain
About Dr. Rupali Jain
Dr Rupali Jain is a leading ENT surgeon based in Amraoti Distt (Warud). Trained in Hospital administration and health also, she runs her own hospital since more than 15 years now. Dr. Jain is also a Law student herself and Secretary of Indian Medico legal Association – Amraoti branch. She is also the founder President of Anandi NGO which works for the rights of physically abused women and their rehabilitation.
Dr. Jain is going to be associated as a Panelist on our ‘Health and Well Being’ page at Nagpur Today.