Ears are exhausted with different kinds of those nasty voices all around. Is that too a pollution? No one has ever had a day or night without closing their ears at least once, because of irritated noise. Do you know what noise pollution is and what are its causes and effects? We shall detail each aspects of noise pollution, from its definition to the preventive laws and statutes, including the causes and effects.
There is a certain point of noise limit a human being can survive. Anything above that noise is unbearable. Then why are all the horns on, on the road? The after effects of the noise pollution are much more than you can think. Loss of hearing is the worst thing that can happen to a human being as the effect of noise pollution.
The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of ‘noise’ is ‘a sound, especially when it is loud, unpleasant or disturbing’.
This definition would first bring to mind the sound of one’s mother’s voice which one would probably like to associate with noise pollution. Jokes aside, noise is a very real, subtle entity which one cannot see, taste, feel or smell. And because of these very things noise is not taken as seriously as it should be.
Our ears are so adapting to the environment. They have the special ability to block out the noisy background and focus on what one wants to hear. For eg when standing with a friend at the busy bus stop , you block the sounds of the on-going traffic, the stomping of many feet, the music flowing from the nearby cafeteria, all just to concentrate on the very interesting story your friend has to tell.
But this ability does not stop our nerves from receiving the continuous signals anyway.
How to Measure sound pollution
Sound is measured in units called Decibels(dB) According to The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, sound that is safe for the ear is said to be 75 dB and below, while sound that can causes harm is 85 dB and above. The normal refrigerator hums at 45 dB, whereas maximum volume on an MP3 player is a loud 105 dB. Having a normal conversation is a pleasant 60 dB whereas it can be understood that arguing with loud voices will not be easy on the ears.
Noise pollution is therefore the addition of unwanted noise into the atmosphere. Noises cann be of different levels.
- Depending on duration : long lasting and short-term
- Depending on intensity : very loud , medium and soft sounds
- Depending on the distance from the source
Sitting in the car in the middle of traffic is 85 decibels and more than 8 hrs of it is not ideal. Use a power mower of 95 db for an hour. Did you know a rock concert and a leaf blower, are both loud at 115 dB and one should keep a limit of 30 seconds for these?
Sources ( Causes ) of noise pollution
- Sound of traffic with the roaring engines of trucks, buses, motorcycles and constant humming of cars.
- Living in areas near the railways stations or airports
- Working near loud machinery in industries, factories and construction sites
- Working with loud tools such as at wood cutting, welding, generators, lawnmowers and other gardening and cleaning machinery,
- Listening to music with head phones, playing in a band, music concerts
- Loud speakers and amplifiers used at Large gatherings of celebrations or protests
- War zones with sudden intense sounds or constant loud ones
- Fire crackers depending on the proximity to them.
Effects of noise pollution
- Noise induced hearing loss – The loss of hearing is not noticeable at first if one is exposed to continuous and medium to loud sounds. One becomes aware of it only after a while. But exposure to a sudden very loud sound even for a short moment such as an explosion can cause a temporary or permanent damage. One or both ears can be affected. Noise pollution can affect all age groups.
- Hearing loss as an occupational hazard.
- Headaches and fatigue due to disturbed sleep patterns
- Hypertension and cardiovascular disease such as myocardial infarction.
- Increases stress leading to psychological disturbance- One may have noticed the degree of annoyance is higher and tolerance is lower in places having loud sounds. This leads to quick altercations for apparently no reason. Dementia is also associated with noise pollution
- Low Birth Weight -The U.S Environmental Protection Agency has studied the co-relation of sound pollution on low birth weights and birth defects in babies born in these environments, but this is still under debate.
- The effects on animals that are sensitive to sounds beyond the capacity of human years is also noted. This is expressed in terms of fear, increased aggression and changes in normal physiologic or bodily functions such as hunger, urination, defecation, pacing etc.
EPA ‘s action on noise pollution
The EPA did issue regulations regarding noise pollution and its control. It was added as part of the Clean Air Act for a while. But more effective laws and methods were brought by the state governments. This was found to be more effective than the Federal regulations. Hence the EPA removed noise pollution from its purview and allowed the state governments to monitor noise pollution.
Protection from noise pollution
- To be aware of the kind of noises around oneself
- Since it is a subtle form of pollution it is important to create awareness of it especially among those living or working in spaces like noisy factories, industries, airports, railways, construction sites, sports stadia, traffic wardens, malls, etc.
- Ear protection using ear muffs or plugs especially for babies, elderly people, handicapped persons, pet animals etc.
- Avoid using headphones or earplugs at high volumes.
- If suspecting hearing loss, get tested.
- Use of sound insulating architectural elements in offices , apartments, industries and public places
- Planning living spaces such that there is sufficient distance between the source of noise and residences, schools and hospitals
- Use of silencers in automobiles
- Lubrication and maintenance of machinery.
- Plant more trees at strategic points. These act as sound barriers.
In the human ear are many delicate parts. It is the nerve endings in the inner ear that is most affected by continuous sounds and when these are damaged hearing loss occurs. Unlike other cells these cannot be regenerated or replaced. Hence one realizes how important it is to protect the ears from harm.
Getting help from the government and law and order agencies is important when the noisy situation is out of one’s control. Demanding strict laws to control noise production and eliminate noise pollution from our representatives in the government is our right. We must use it.
Whether a corporate or individual player, it is only with consideration for one’s environment and fellow beings, can one be motivated to adopt technologies and newer methods of noise control.