As we head toward assembly elections in our state, one small device that could help us keep our sanity intact is an ear plug. In every nook and corner in Kerala, all the three political fronts are bound to raise the decibel levels of their campaigns, as if they want to beat their rivals at least in noise levels. Along with the hustings, we also have a number of temple festivals in March and April that will add to the noise pollution. Imagine the plight of our students who have various board examinations in these months!
What can noise do to you? We know that it sometimes disturbs our peace of mind and can give you a headache or increased blood pressure. But is that all? If your answer is yes, I would like to say that you haven’t properly comprehended the intensions of this villain. From the exposure to the high decibel music, bhajans and discourses that our temples, mosques and churches belt out to living near a noisy industrial area to the regular use of ear phones, all could lead to deafness. People start losing their hearing without even realizing it.
In India, we have rules prescribing the highest permissible limits of noise levels for day and night. While it is 55 and 45 decibels for residential localities, for industrial areas, the permissible noise level is 75 and 70. Commercial areas can have up to 65 and 55 decibels respectively. For silence zones the level is 50 and 40 decibels. It may come as a surprise to know that religious places come under silence zones and are supposed to create the minimum noise!
The origin of the word noise, which comes from the Latin word 'nauseas' meaning 'seasickness' itself suggests its ill-effects. A long list of problems such as anxiety, stress, nervousness, nausea, headache, emotional instability, argumentativeness, sexual impotence, increase in social conflicts and psychosis may result from continuous exposure to loud noises. Noise can also have a negative effect on the levels of hormone secretions and even lead to abortions. Population studies have suggested associations between noise and mental-health.
Children, elderly people, patients suffering from various illnesses and those with underlying depression may be particularly vulnerable to these effects, because they may not have adequate coping mechanisms. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 'impairment of early childhood development and education caused by noise may have lifelong effects on academic achievement and health.'
Noise does not only affect human beings. It creates confusions and health problems in wild animals, birds and even plants and trees. Animals and birds rely on sound as a primary sense for mating, communicating and hunting. The noise generated by human activities can throw their lives helter-skelter.
Many plants and trees need birds and animals to deliver pollen from one flower or tree to the next, or to disperse their seeds. But it is seen that many animals change their behaviour or move to quieter locales because of the noise levels. Consequently, it has an adverse effect on pollination and dispersal of seeds.
Though the problems created by noise pollution are manifold, the good news is that noise is a controllable pollutant. The most important step is to educate people about noise and its harmful effects. Such awareness would encourage them to exercise self control and reduce noise pollution. The law has imposed severe restrictions on the use of noisy loud speakers and other equipment. If the authorities strictly enforce the law and the public whole heartedly cooperates, noise pollution can be easily controlled. Perhaps it’s time to tell the candidates in this election that our vote will go to those who keep the volumes low.
(Photo credit: v4vikash via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND Bryce Edwards via Foter.com / CC BY
furiousgeorge81 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND)