By Gautam S Kumar:
What is noise? It can be anything ranging from an aircraft taking off to a nagging neighbour. Put simply, it is any form of sound that is unpleasant. All of us have been shushed at some point of our lives. But did you know that we are effectively shortening the life of the person who shushed us? Okay, that may be a bit too extreme for an accusation. But yes, recent research by a team from the US and Europe have found associations between noise and heart disease, sleep problems and a variety of other health related issues. What makes the revelations all the more grave is the fact that noise pollution isn’t really something that we can get away from.
Dr. Mathias Basner, a member of the research team reveals that our auditory system or, in other words, our inbuilt ‘hearing tools’ remain active even when we are asleep. And because of this, noise can wake people up multiple times without them even realizing it. And all of us are aware of how cranky we can become without a good night’s sleep. More noise, hence means crankier people. Crankier people means more noise and thus, this acts as an endless cycle. Even if one is a very sound sleeper, he/she is not immune to the ill effects of noise. Chronic exposure to noise can lead to an increase in the production of stress hormones. And we know this is true because each and every one of us has sat through a traffic jam that had us wanting to rip our ears out. Blaring horns, screaming drivers, crying babies and one is left wondering just how worse ‘hell’ can be.
The study also reveals that chronic exposure to noise can cause increased blood pressure, which can take a toll on the heart. And shockingly (not) the heart happens to be a very important contributor to this wonderful thing we call life. The more a person is exposed to a noisy environment, the weaker the person’s heart becomes. This just makes things much worse for the financially weaker sections of the society like construction workers, labourers and factory workers as they can’t even afford the treatment and/or medication for their weakened hearts. In their struggle to provide for themselves and their families, they are inadvertently making things worse in the long run. Noise pollution thus has strong social consequences as well and unless serious measures are taken in developing countries like ours (Countries like the USA provide construction site workers with equipment to cut off the sound) to safeguard these workers, it will continue to be a major hindrance to the overall progression of the country’s economy.
What is more disheartening is that it is the poorer sections of the society that are more prone to chronic exposure. These are the people who have their homes located close to highways and airports and it proves to be another classic example of things going from bad to worse. Not only do they suffer the consequences of lower socioeconomic status, they also have all this noise to deal with. Of course, there is an argument that all of the health problems they have are solely because of their socioeconomic status and that the noise doesn’t really make a difference. However, the studies conducted have taken all of those factors into account and this thus underlines the fact that all the noise is adding to the number of years taken away from their lives.
The problem is even persistent in hospitals, usually considered to be noise-free zones. The research reveals that in places like intensive care units, the machine noises from the medical equipment in itself results in the worsening of the patient’s condition as well as increased healing times. The noise also has an adverse effect on the hospital staff who become annoyed and fatigued more easily owing to it. This holds true for all work places with the bottom line being that a noisy workplace leads to decreased productivity and diminished well being of employees.
We live in a country where every festival involves loud crackers and blaring music. A country where elections mean vehicles with loudspeakers screeching out ‘earsplittingly‘ loud propaganda. A country where the roads keep getting more congested with traffic jams already part and parcel of daily commuters’ lives. All of these reasons make it of utmost importance to us that we find ways to protect ourselves from all the noise. Using noise canceling earphones wherever possible, placing bedrooms away from highways and most importantly not contributing to the noise, all go a long way in making the environment much more pleasant. Keep the crackers minimal, turn the music down, refrain from honking the horn just to get under other drivers’ skins and don’t scream unless absolutely necessary (you will know when) so that you can enjoy a better atmosphere and a better you. So spread the word people, and always remember to keep it down.