Noise is difficult to define … and yet it is all around us

November 12, 2007 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

noiseAs my father and I set off on our regular visit to my mother’s grave on Sunday, the morning seemed nippy so I didn’t shut the car windows and turn on the airconditioning as I usually do. It was early morning and there wasn’t a lot of traffic but as rickshaws and motorbikes and suzukis went past us – most of which did not have silencers that worked – the noise started to invade my space and affect the peace and quiet that are a normal part of my Sunday morning.

That is when I started to think about the noise pollution that surrounds us – a lot of which we ‘get used to’ and therefore turn a deaf ear to. Little do we know that it may well be that we haven’t actually adjusted to the noise; that it is more than likely that our hearing has been affected by the constant noise that polutes our atmosphere.

So how would you define noise? Students of acoustics define noise as complex sound waves with irregular vibrations and no definite pitch. Engineers define noise as a signal that interferes with the detection of another signal. I would define it in two simple words – unwanted sound!

Can loud music, the sound of heavy traffic, machinery, tools, household equipment, toys, movie surround-sound, aeroplanes, loud conversation or the ring of an alarm clock be termed as noise? The answer to all these questions is a resounding yes! Any noise level over 80 decibels is potentially a danger to your hearing and to your psychological well-being. The impact varies depending on how loud the sound is and for what length of time you are exposed to it. Listening to music through headphones over a significant period of time, is considered to be one of the possible reasons for the loss of hearing in young adults. And let us not forget the screaming that one has to indulge in on a daily basis to get anything done right. The noise! The noise! The noise!

Noise pollution not only causes hearing loss, it can also result in increased blood pressure, cardiovascular changes, respiratory problems, mood changes and disturbed sleep patterns. I wonder how many people notice that their voices get louder in response to the ambient sound, that irritation and anger become ‘normal reactions’ to a constant invasion of ones peace and tranquility by the loud sounds that are a part of our everyday lives.

It is imperative that we recognize this and start creating an awareness of the negative impact of noise on young children and also in adults in the workplace, in the home and in our every day environment.

I just remembered that my friend Vic wrote an article about sound solutions for people in his column Mumbai Mumbles that explores this topic in depth.

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