Almost everyone has had one experience of being temporarily "deafened" by a loud noise. This deafness is not permanent, although it is often accompanied by a ringing in the ears, and one can hear another person if he raises his voice. Likewise, normal hearing comes back within a few hours at most. This type of deafness may be experienced after firing a gun or after a long drive in the car with the windows open.

Sound is essential to our daily lives, but not noise. Most of us are very used to the sounds we hear in everyday life.

Loud music, the television, people talking on their phone, the traffic, the sound generating sets especially at night (mostly in countries with unstable power supply) and even pets barking in the middle of the night. All of these have become a part of the urban culture and rarely disturb us. However, when the sound of the television keeps you from sleeping all night or the traffic starts to give you a headache, it stops becoming just noise and start turning into noise pollution.

By definition Noise pollution also known noise disturbance is an unwanted sound, or sound which produces unpleasant effects and discomfort to the ears. Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life.

Not all noise can be called noise pollution. If it does not happen regularly, it may be termed as 'Nuisance'.

Noises can come from a wide variety of sources, including machines and animals. Living or working near an airport, where the loud sounds of airplanes landing and taking off is often heard, is one way that a person may be exposed to noise pollution on a regular basis.

Our ears are excellent at telling us what noise is. Most commonly, noise is an annoying tone that causes mild to major discomfort/irritation. These tones pierce through the background noise that accompanies our lives.

By and large, lack of urban planning increases the exposure to unwanted sounds. This is why understanding noise pollution is necessary to curb it in time.

Sources of Noise Pollution

1. Industrialization: Most of the industries use big machines which are capable of producing large amount of noise. Apart from that, various equipment like compressors, generators, exhaust fans, grinding mills also participate in producing big noise. Therefore, you must have seen workers in these factories and industries wearing ear plugs to minimize the effect of noise.

2. Poor Urban Planning: In most of the developing countries, poor urban planning also plays a vital role. Congested houses, large families sharing small space, fight over parking, frequent fights over basic amenities leads to noise pollution which may disrupt the environment of society.

3. Social Events: Noise is at its peak in most of the social events. Whether it is marriage, parties, pub, disc or place of worship, people normally flout rules set by the local administration and create nuisance in the area. People play songs on full volume and dance till midnight which makes the condition of people living nearby pretty worse. In markets, you can see people selling clothes via making loud noise to attract the attention of people.

4. Transportation: Large number of vehicles on roads, aeroplanes flying over houses, and moving trains produce heavy noise and people get it difficult to get accustomed to that. The high noise leads to a situation wherein a normal person lose the ability to hear properly.

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. These construction activities take place everyday as we need more buildings, bridges to accommodate more people and to reduce traffic congestion. The down point is that these construction equipment are too noisy.

6. Household Gadgets: We people are surrounded by gadgets and use them extensively in our daily life. Gadgets like TV, mobile phones, mixer grinder, pressure cooker, vacuum cleaners, washing machine and dryer, cooler, air conditioners are minor contributors to the amount of noise that is produced but it affects the quality of life of your neighbourhood in a bad way.

While these sources of noise pollution may seem harmless, they in fact have far reaching consequences. The adverse effects on the health of the environment are quite severe.

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. Our ears can take in a certain range of sounds without getting damaged. Man made noises such as jackhammers, horns, machinery, airplanes and even vehicles can be too loud for our hearing range. Constant exposure to loud levels of noise can easily result in the damage of our ear drums and loss of hearing. It also reduces our sensitivity to sounds that our ears pick up unconsciously to regulate our body’s rhythm.

2. Health Issues: Excessive noise pollution in working areas such as offices, construction sites, bars and even in our homes can influence psychological health. Studies show that the occurrence of aggressive behaviour, 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.

3. Sleeping Disorders: Loud noise can certainly hamper your sleeping pattern and may lead to irritation and uncomfortable situations. Without a good night sleep, it may lead to problems related to fatigue and your performance may go down in office as well as at home. It is therefore recommended to take a sound sleep to give your body proper rest.

4. Cardiovascular Issues: Blood pressure levels, cardio-vascular disease and stress related heart problems are on the rise. Studies suggest that high intensity noise causes high blood pressure and increases heart beat rate as it disrupts the normal blood flow. It causes neurological problems, birth defects and abortion, muscle contraction leading to nervous breakdown, tension, etc.

5. Trouble Communicating: High decibel noise can put trouble and may not allow two people to communicate freely. This may lead to misunderstanding and you may get difficulty understanding the other person. Constant sharp noise can give you severe headache and disturb your emotional balance.

Scientists also believe that it’s not only humans who are affected. For example, water animals are subjected to noise by submarines and big ships on the ocean, and chain-saw operations by timber companies also create extreme noise to animals in the forests.

Bringing them to a manageable level depends on our understanding noise pollution and how we tackle it.

Noise Pollution Prevention and Control Tips Below are a few things people and governments can do to make our communities quieter: 1. Construction of soundproof rooms for noisy machines in industrial and manufacturing installations must be encouraged. Proper lubrication and better maintenance of machines will reduce noise. This is also important for residential building—noisy machines should be installed far from sleeping and living rooms, like in a basement or garage. 2. Use of horns with jarring sounds, motorbikes with damaged exhaust pipes, noisy trucks to be banned. 3. Noise producing industries, airports, bus and transport terminals and railway stations to sighted far from where living places. 4. Community law enforcers should check the misuse of loudspeakers, worshipers, outdoor parties and discos, as well as public announcements systems. 5. Community laws must silence zones near schools/colleges, hospitals etc. 6. Vegetation (trees) along roads and in residential areas is a good way to reduce noise pollution as they absorb sound.

As individuals, we are incapable of completely changing our environment to eliminate excess noises; such things will need to be left up to government, city planners, etc.

However, there are still things we can do while we wait:

1. Turn off your electronics. Computers, game systems, televisions and the likes all make noise when they’re not in use - whether it’s a fan spinning or barely-audible screech some TVs make in standby. Over time, all of these sounds cause stress on the ears. Turn them off when you are not using them. A little extra effort is worth it; as a bonus, you’ll save some money on electricity.

2. Sound proof your space. There are a lot of things you can do to reduce the sound at home (or perhaps your workplace).

  • If you have hard floors, rugs will go a long way in the fight to dampen sound.

  • Windows are a known weak point in many structures. Installing better windows, sealing window frames, or hanging curtains (even thin ones) will help reduce the sound coming from outside.

  • If you have noisy neighbours on one side of you, put furniture or a big bookshelf (preferably full of books) against that wall.

  • If you have laundry machines in a separate room, shut the door. Also try running appliances like dishwashers and bread machines when you’re getting ready to leave the house for a bit. When you’re gone they can make as much noise as they want.

3. Earplugs. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. If night-time noise keeps you awake, earplugs could be your ticket to sweet slumber. Just make sure you set your alarm loud enough. Earplugs can also be great if you are going to a noisy event or concert. They don’t block out all the noise; rather, they bring sounds down to a manageable level.

4. Move. This one sounds drastic, but it may be worth it. Sometimes barrier walls and thick curtains can only do so much (and we’re not about to line our walls with egg carton foam). While moving outside the city (or perhaps suburbs) will reduce your sound levels greatly, it is not possible for everyone. However, be aware that sound levels can vary quite a bit even within a city. You may not have to move very far to experience a significant drop in noise. Choosing a home away from aircraft paths, trains, highways, or industrial districts is your best bet.

Other advice

There are two more things regarding your hearing that we want to mention:

First, it is important to limit the volume of your electronic devices, especially headphones. Hearing loss is a result of cumulative noise over time—and there’s no reversing it. It’s good practice not to set the volume higher than you need to hear it. If you can’t hear because of the noise surrounding you, consider investing in a pair of noise cancelling headphones.

Most music players (such as iPods) have maximum volumes you can set to prevent you from turning them too loud. Noise induced hearing loss is increasing in children and adolescents. Right now, an estimated 80% of elementary school children use personal music players; experts believe this is part of the problem. Remember to limit their devices so they don’t turn them too loud.

Secondly, it may be a good investment to get your ears cleaned—as strange as it may sound. Large amounts of wax can cause an annoying ringing in the ears called tinnitus. Getting your ears cleaned might be a simple, but often overlooked, solution to an annoying problem. You can get your ears cleaned professionally by an audiologist or doctor. Home remedies, such as using Q-tips (cotton buds) or ear candles are not recommended by medical professionals.

Helping Your Community Stay Quiet

1. Don't use your car horn unnecessarily. Don't be part of the problem by leaning on your horn every time someone looks at you wrong on the street. Use your horn only when absolutely necessary, as a way to let someone know that you're present or warn them when they're about to collide with something. It's good driving etiquette, and makes life more pleasant for city-dwellers.

2. Keep your car in good repair. The sound of a car without a muffler chugging down the street is never welcome, so make sure you’re not the one causing noise pollution in your neighbourhood and spring to get your car fixed. Keeping your car in good, quiet working order will be appreciated by everyone who lives near you.

  • The same goes for your lawnmower and any other noisy equipment you might use outdoors.

  • To have an even greater impact on noise in your area, consider walking or biking instead of using a car whenever possible.

3. Keep your music down. It might sound beautiful to you, but respect the fact that others might not feel the same way. Your music shouldn't be noticeable outside your own home. If you know that the neighbours don't mind, feel free to keep your windows open and let them enjoy your musical taste, but don't just assume that everyone wants to hear your favourite opera as much as you do.

  • If you play a noisy instrument or are in a band, make sure to practice during reasonable hours.

  • If you're having a party and planning to play loud music, let your neighbours know beforehand so you can avoid conflict.

4. Respect quiet hours at night. Whether the rule is unspoken or prominently published, make sure you don't make noise after hours. Don't put your neighbours in the position of having to ask you to be quiet, since it's awkward and makes for unfriendly relations. Do your best to be a good neighbour so you can expect the same from those around you.

  • This is especially important if you live in an apartment building. Don't vacuum or do housework late at night, since they'll be able to hear you walking around.

How to talk to Noisy Neighbours

Being honest and direct is the best approach, but it can be tricky. You don't want to upset your neighbours, but you also don't want to live with perpetual noise or being unable to sleep.

Polite and friendly communication is generally considered the best way to address the noise problem when your neighbours are the cause.

  • Don't come banging on the door while the noise is happening. That will only create tension and force your neighbour to feel defensive. Wait until things have died down, or approach your neighbour the next day.

  • Likewise, don't call the police over noise complaints. The police generally have better things to do, and your neighbours will resent you. They may even try to retaliate or escalate the situation. No one likes having the police called on them, so be open and polite with your neighbours and leave the law out of it.

  • Approach your neighbour with courtesy and kindness. Be honest about the problem and maintain an even temper and a friendly demeanour. Say something like, "Hi neighbour. I was wondering if I could talk to you about something. Do you have a few minutes?"

  • Then speak with them about the noise issue. It might be best to approach them with a reasonable plan. For instance, you might say, "I hear you playing your guitar at night. That's cool, but do you think you could practice before 11pm? I have to get up early for work and it's difficult for me to get to sleep."

If all fails, contact your landlord or try bringing in a professional mediator. These professionals are trained to work with both parties to arrive at a mutual understanding.

....making effort to "STAYWELL"



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