Friday, 30 November 2012

[] Effects of noise pollution and how to avoid it


What is noise pollution?
Noise pollution is the addition of unwanted and disturbing sounds to our environment. While sound is produced during almost every activity and mechanism, there are times when it reaches levels that become intolerable and painful. Sound is measured in decibels and sounds that are more than 80 decibels are considered painful and problematic. Continuous exposure to such loud noises can cause a host of problems including hearing loss. The busiest parts of our cities have a decibel quantum of more than 80dB, meaning that at any point of time, we are surrounded by excessively high noise levels. 
Noise pollution in India
Let's face it. We are a noisy country. Visitors who come to our cities are overwhelmed by the amount of noise. We have a very dense traffic composed of lorries, huge buses, cars, countless motorbikes, auto-rickshaws and taxis all fighting for space and at constant war to creep a few inches ahead a few seconds quicker. And on top of that, we love to honk. It's a national pastime. So loudly do we honk that when we take our heads out of our windows to yell at and curse other motorists, we don't hear it. We honk at crossroads, we honk in front of schools, we honk around hospitals and we honk at ambulances if they stop our way. 
Add to that the amount of construction that is happening in our cities, the noise reaches very high levels. Cranes, wielding machines, cement mixers, hammers and other construction machines work around the clock, building those high rise buildings and skylines we pride ourselves on. With the increasing buying capacity of our people, we invest in those high-end, mega-power stereo systems and home theaters to create "powerful sounds" inside our houses. We celebrate our festivals with noise. Drum beats, loud music from high-frequency speakers atop poles, "brass bands" playing along the road at weddings, crackers and dancing crowds all add to our festive spirit. And to noise pollution.
We have countless street dogs on our roads and in our colonies who enjoy barking as much as we love honking. In short, we are the global hub of noise. And each of us actively contribute to it with unwavering commitment. Surely, all this is affecting us? 
The effects of noise
The most decisive long term consequence of noise pollution is hearing loss. Our ear drums can only vibrate to a certain level and with constant exposure to loud noises, they become insensitive to whispers and rustling leaves. It is a known fact that people living near airports where lots of planes leave and take off develop hearing problems soon. Aircrafts take off at 120 decibels. Being exposed to 80-90 decibels of noise for hours daily, we aren't far behind. 
Noise creates a lot of stress. We know it is hard to work when somebody near us is talking aloud. Trying to work in an environment where a lot of people are talking in addition to all the noise in the background is, needless to say, stressful. Noise causes annoyance and aggravation and people living amidst a lot of noise tend to lose their tempers really quick. It disrupts sleep and in the long run sends our sleep patterns haywire; it puts us on the edge constantly and largely and negatively impacts our social interactions. Too much of noise also leads to hypertension. Stress and sleeplessness in turn are reasons for a variety of physiological and psychological problems and precursors to a host of diseases. Collectively, excessive exposure to noise reduce efficiency and consequently, productivity at work.
The effect of noise pollution is not limited to human beings alone. Animals, both prey and predators, living in cities face a challenge to their natural senses. Noise drastically reduces their habitat and contributes to the threat of extinction and endangerment. It also has an adverse effect on plants, stunting growth and threatening life. 
Avoiding noise pollution
We are a country of 1.2 billion people and anything we do is bound to create noise. The best we can do is to cut ourselves from it and most importantly, make less noise ourselves.
  • First things first, do not honk. Honking has no purpose. At most times, it is just an easier way of abusing someone else on the road, so keep it to that. Blowing the horn at an auto-rickshaw in front of your car asking him to make way for you when the other person himself has no place is rude and pointless. Believe it or not, one person honking fewer number of times actually make things a tad bit quieter, at least for yourself.
  • Keep your phones on vibrating or silent modes. Phones constantly ringing in the office are nothing but a nuisance. Do not talk aloud over the phone when other people are around. Often, you do not hear the other person when people around you talk and you end up talking louder into your mouthpiece. Other people around you then talk louder and it creates a vicious circle resulting in a lot of noise and no work.
  • Do not play the music too loud, in your homes or at work. It disturbs other people's peace and adds to the already present noise pollution. Use headphones and do not turn them up too loud because loud headphones damage your ear drums.
  • While arranging events and functions, be humane. Give a thought to other people who share the air with you and do not arrange for a loud brass band and noisy speakers on poles or burst crackers, waking up the entire neighborhood. Noise does not contribute to happy marriages or festivals. In fact, it only stresses you out all the more.
  • Wear a helmet while on a two-wheeler and pull up your car windows if you are in one. The lesser the noise of horns reaching you, the better it is for your mental health.
  • If your workplace or home is close to the road, keep your windows and doors closed, specially during rush hours, and opt for ACs for air circulation. Nobody works well when horns are blaring and engines roaring outside.
  • If there is a lot of construction work happening in your neighborhood, talk to the people in charge and ask for the construction to be avoided during nights when you and other people in the neighborhood are sleeping. There are legal recourses that can be taken against constructions that disturb human life and it is likely that the people in charge will oblige to your request.
Take a break whenever you can from the noise and take some time out for yourself in a quieter place. Timely vacations are a great way to beat the stress piled upon by all that city noise. Even a day or two spent in quiet rejuvenates your senses and de-stresses you to a great extent.

Best Regards
Prakash Nair

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