Understanding Noise Pollution


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Most of us in Mumbai are very much used to loud music, television drone, people talking on the phone, traffic noise and a lot more. All of these have become a part of our every day life and we are eventually habituated, so it rarely disturbs us. However, when these sounds keep us from sleeping at night or the traffic noise and give us a headache, we call it noise pollution.

By definition, noise pollution takes place when there is either an excessive amount of noise or an unpleasant sound that is unnatural in volume or source, that causes a temporary disruption in the natural balance of our lives.


Causes of Noise Pollution

1. Industrialization: In our city industrial units are interspersed between residential areas and almost all sounds produced by industrial machines exceed danger levels of 110 to 115 dB.

2. Poor Urban Planning: Congested houses, large families sharing small space, fighting over parking space, frequent fights over basic amenities leads to noise pollution which disrupts the environment of society.

3. Social Events: Marriages, parties, pubs, and discos or places of worship, is where people normally flout rules set by the local administration and create a nuisance in the area. People listening to loud music and hawkers shouting their wares add to this nuisance.

4. Transportation: Poor adherence to sound control norms, noisy vehicles, modified vehicle exhaust especially bikes and heavy vehicles plying in residential areas also add to the noise.

5. Construction Activities: Under construction activities like mining, construction of bridges, dams, buildings, stations, roads, flyovers take place in almost every part of the world. In Mumbai due to the huge demand for new housing or repair of old buildings , construction noise is something we all have to live with.

6. Household Chores: Due to the infiltration of gadgets for almost everything in our daily lives, homes produce noise from gadgets such as TV, mobile , mixer- grinder, pressure cooker, vacuum cleaners, washing machine -dryer, cooler, air conditioners etc . While this form of pollution may seem harmless, it, in fact, has far-reaching consequences.


Effects of Noise Pollution

1. Hearing Problems: Any unwanted sound that our ears have not been built to filter can cause problems within the body. Man-made noises such as industrial or construction machinery or aircraft engines are too loud. Constant exposure to loud levels of noise can easily result in the damage of our ear drums and inner ear nerves and causes loss of hearing and ringing in the ears. It also reduces our sensitivity to sounds that our ears pick up unconsciously to regulate our body’s rhythm. Ultra-low frequency sounds cause feelings of fear or awe or presence of something supernatural.

2. Health Issues: Excessive noise pollution in working areas can influence psychological ill health. Studies show that the occurrence of aggressive behavior, disturbance of sleep, constant stress, fatigue, and hypertension can be linked to excessive noise levels. These, in turn, can cause more severe and chronic health issues later in life. Obesity, stroke, high blood pressure, children born with birth defects or low birth weight due to hormonal disturbances in mothers caused by noise and contraction of blood vessels all over the body due to noise are some of the more dangerous effects of noise. Cleft lip, cleft palate and spine deformities in newborns are commonly caused by noise pollution.  At the cellular level, the body’s cells do not repair as they should and die off when exposed to loud noise on a regular basis. Immunity to infections falls and diseases increase the frequency of headaches, fatigue, stomach ulcers, and vertigo all linked to noise exposure.

3. Sleeping Disorders:  Poor sleep due to noise disturbance causes irritation and uncomfortable situations. This leads to low productivity, constant tiredness and exhaustion, accidents on road or workplace due to poor concentration, and anger and aggression in social interactions.

4. Cardiovascular Issues: Blood pressure levels, cardiovascular disease, and stress-related heart problems are on the rise. Studies suggest that high-intensity noise causes high blood pressure and increases heartbeat rate as it disrupts the normal blood flow, by contracting blood vessels all over the body. Fairly typical roadway noise levels are sufficient to cause this.

5. Trouble Communicating:  Due to noise disturbance conversations may be misunderstood or poorly understood. Constant sharp noise can give you a severe headache and can disturb your emotional balance. In children, this causes speech and reading difficulties, trouble with understanding words, poor school performance, writing difficulties (dysgraphia), and raised heart rates and anxiety.

6. Effect on Wildlife: Pets react more aggressively in households where there is a constant noise. They become disoriented more easily and face many behavioral problems. This, in turn, disturbs owners both mentally and emotionally.


How can one avoid noise pollution

1. Making  barriers to insulate noise producers by

  • Raising walls along roads, planting trees along roads, 
  • Installing noisy machinery in sound-treated rooms
  • Installing materials that absorb sound
  • Dissipatingnoise-generating vibrations and placing physical breaks between a vibrating object and the hearer (example putting a soft material or rubber under vibrating machines
  • Using good principles of architectural acoustics while building homes
  • Soundproofing living spaces (floor rugs, sealing window frames, hanging curtains, putting furniture against walls which are transmitting maximum sound into the room)

Reducing sound levels 

  • At home, turning off electronics when not in use
  • Running washing machines, dishwashers, clothes dryers when you are not in the room.
  • Using vacuum cleaners and mixers for short periods of time.
  • Masking or cancelling noise by soft music, simply running a small fan, hanging musical chimes or using any other pleasant sound generator to cancel unpleasant sounds.
  • Occasionally moving house if the ambient sound levels are too high and cannot be controlled is the only option for some people whose health is being seriously adversely affected by noise pollution.
  • lowering the volume of the radio, music system and the television. Listening to music without headphones
  • controlling the sound levels in clubs, bars, parties and discos
  • Better urban planning can help in creating ‘No-Noise’ zones, where honking and industrial noise are not tolerated

Treating the side effects of noise pollution

Is done by doctors and healthcare providers. In case there is hearing loss or heart or blood pressure problems and a noisy environment is causing it, treatment of the medical problem by doctors and taking steps to avoid or reduce the noisy environment is the only course of treatment. See your doctor if you live in a noisy area or work in a noisy office and have any of the symptoms mentioned in this article.


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