‘Will they ever stop that noise?’ yelled the octogenarian Mr. Ganguly to his wife. The neighbors next door were having a house party and playing rock music. The music was so loud that the entire colony could hear it.
After circling around on the runway, the airplane finally came to a halt. The passengers got off with ease. The absolutely excruciating unease was on the part of the kids living in the slums outside the boundary of the airport. The crazy loud sound made by the airplane was deafening.
The amount of noise rising from the almost always jammed highway near their apartment was insane. Mrs. Srinivas was getting headaches and nausea almost daily.
All the above cases point to one thing: noise pollution.
Noise pollution is any kind of unwanted loud sound that is distressing to the sense of hearing. Noise or sound is measured in Decibels (dB). Any sound above 180 dB is categorized under noise pollution. The Threshold Value of sound that is the minimum sound audible to the human ear is 1dB. However, at 180 dB, the sound waves cause much harm to the human body and beyond this limit, it becomes unbearable. These days as automobiles, airplanes, people, factories, schools, etc. increase, more and more noise pollution is happening. There are two kinds of noise, as far as disturbance is concerned:
1. Internal Noise: This is the noise created indoors. Appliances whirring, children yelling, rustling papers, clatter of dishes, etc. are some of the examples under this category. Mostly, the individual can control this kind of noise by making changes in the set up or reducing the noise.
2. External Noise: This kind of noise is created outdoors. Traffic snarls, jet planes’ droning and the general din outside constitute external noise. This type of noise is not under the control of the individual. You cannot go out and tell the beeps and horns in the traffic jam to shut up. One single human just cannot.
Much as we may try, noise pollution is slowly creeping up the ladder of urban issues. It may not get as much attention as global warming or climate change but it is a serious trouble just the same. The foremost reason is that adverse effects of noise pollution are slow and gradual. The effects are not as drastic and sudden as carbon monoxide poisoning but are dangerous just the same. If you get a paralytic attack due to heavy metal poisoning or due to a long exposure to the droning of supersonic jets, how does the difference matter? You are paralyzed anyway.
Some of the ill-effects of noise pollution:
• The first and foremost trouble from noise is noise itself. Is it not annoying when you are trying to concentrate on writing out your article and the vacuum cleaner is on at full volume in your room? Constant background noise reduces productivity and gives rise to irritation as well.
• Hearing is precious. So is our eardrum. Too many sound waves (that is, noise) can actually rupture our ear drum. In most cases, it is a damage that is permanent for life. Partial or complete loss of hearing is the result.
• Noise interferes with speech. When you are stuck in traffic, you cannot hear your own voice above the din, let alone someone else’s. Even if you do hear someone speaking, you cannot completely follow and comprehend.
• Noise is trouble, especially for people who need to rest. Heart patients, sleeping infants, patients of hypertension all need a noise-free environment.
• Anxiety, stress and extreme fright and aggression are related to noise pollution. This is seen not only in human beings but also in domestic animals as well. Dogs especially find it excruciating in the presence of loud sounds. You may have noticed them ducking under furniture and whining when you burst firecrackers. Noise is the reason.
• Noise has also been related to an increased blood pressure, heart beat rate and constricted blood vessels (or vasoconstriction). Dilated pupils and a constant ‘fight-or-flight’ condition may also persist due to noise pollution. Sometimes, in extremely fragile cases, heart failure may occur too.
• Psychological manifestations like headache, nausea, anxiety and a constant fatigue are also the result of noise pollution. Fatigue coupled with irritation almost always results in low work efficiency.
• Occupational noise is another major source of loss of hearing. People working in heavily mechanized factories such as locomotive workshops, automobile manufacturing units, iron smelters, etc. are often patients of loss of hearing.
• Research says that cognitive development in growing children, especially toddlers has decreased considerably due to long hours of exposure to loud noise and disturbance.
• Retarded physical development in fetuses has also been seen. When expectant mothers are exposed to noise pollution many developmental disorders in the new born are seen. Low birth-weight, harelip, cleft palate, defect in the spine, etc. have been tied to noise.
Noise pollution in the urban scenario is an emerging threat. We don’t pay heed to it much, unless we ourselves are stuck in deafening traffic. Maybe it is time we use better technologies to run our appliances and vehicles. The next time you are hosting a house party with crazy loud music at 2.a.m. do know that you are polluting the environment in more ways than one.