– by Dr. Bharti Raizada
Sound is the sensation perceived by the sense of hearing, whereas noise is a loud, unwanted, unpleasant, and harsh sound. The natural sounds such as Chirping of birds, Gurgling and splash of water, Movement of trees/ leaves, Bee buzz are ear-friendly as well as eco-friendly sounds.
In our daily life, too much noise pollution is going all around us. Almost every equipment and machine at homes such as refrigerator, microwave, mixers, vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, exhaust fans, exercising machines etc. creates continuous noise when operated.
When we go outside our homes, there are noises which constantly keep banging our eardrum. For example, traffic noises, sirens, and music. Whether it may be a shopping mall, a restaurant or a get-together noise in the form of music is forced on us. Even in the hospitals, televisions are always on with high volume most of the times. We may think that when we are sleeping we are not exposed to noise. However, this is not true. The brain is still getting exposure. We end up hearing noises all day and night, whether we choose it or not.
Causes of the Noise Pollution
Many sounds which are disturbing and harmful to the ears fall in the categories of noise pollution. Some glaring examples of noise are ones created by Airplanes, Trains, Traffic on road and Jackhammers and machinery (refrigerator, washing machines, mixers, grinders, hair dryer, water heaters, phones, and computers).
If our surroundings are deafening, we cannot hear the natural sounds which are soothing to the ears. We need to listen to the nature to understand it and assimilate with it for the optimum utilization our brain faculties, so as to get a deep inside experience which will help us to introspect, to think, and to contemplate.
There are some people who get used to noises and it does not bother them. While some are very sensitive to it and even develop misophonia (a dislike or hatred of some sounds).
Hearing abilities of many animals and insects rely on the waves produced by natural sounds, for example, Elephants communicate with each other by infrasounds, Bats use ultrasound to find insects and to avoid hitting an object, Whales find their babies by sending clicking sounds and then listening to bounce back echo. Excessive and continuous noise, created by modern, developed human, is affecting animals, water creatures, and birds also.
Effects of Noise Pollution
Noise has many effects on our body, mind, behavior, and mood. It can affect hearing and even lead to deafness. It Increases risk of hypertension and stroke. It annoys and upsets people and leads to release of stress hormones and sleep disturbances. There are effects on children also in terms of learning and cognition.
How can we protect ourselves from noise pollution?
It is of utmost importance to control noise to prevent long-lasting damages. If we do not want to see something, we can choose not to go there, however, it is not that easy in case of noise. The initial step is to accept that noise is a pollutant then decrease its production at the source, and increase the distance between a source and yourself.
- Use decibel meter app –it measures noise and then action can be taken to move away from it or decrease it.
- Use noise canceling headphones.
- Use quiet pavement which muffles traffic noise.
- Use quiet machinery.
- Install insulated walls in the home and workplace to muffle or cut off noises from other rooms.
The government should set noise level standards, make noise laws, and strictly enforce those.
Take a step to reduce noise pollution
One has to be careful and try to decrease noise at personal level e.g. do not make loud noises when walking, decrease the volume of TV and music so that it is not annoying or uncomfortable for others. Be sensitive to needs of the people who are sensitive to noises. Insist on getting your quiet time back and let others enjoy their noise-free life.
Dr. Raizada is an Anesthesiologist in Chicago and CEO of Same Condition (a platform that connects people with Same Condition).