Even in the most beautiful music, there are some silences which are there so we can witness the importance of silence. Silence is more important than ever, as life today is full of noise. We speak a lot about environmental pollution but not about noise pollution – Andrea Boselli, Italian opera singer
LOUD sound becomes noise when it unpleasantly and excessively interferes with or disrupts concentration. Research has shown that the main sources of outdoor noise are from machines, transport (airplanes in particular) and propagation systems. Noise pollution threatens one’s quality of life when it affects sleep and conversation. Indoor sources of noise pollution include household entertainment equipment (like radio, record players, television sets) and domestic gadgets (grinding/blending machines, washing machines, exhaust fans).
Noise has a huge influence on man’s physiological health. It has been observed by psychiatrists and psychologists that noise has direct physical health effects on the body which result in unusual annoyance, speech interference, sleep disturbance or disruption, emotional distress and fatigue. Poor efficiency at work is also due to noise which usually comes as a form of unwanted sound. Studies have also revealed that noise may lead to high blood pressure.
Barbershops, hotels, recreational centres, entertainment and relaxation centres, local beer parlors, football viewing and betting centres, worship centres, transport stations (road, air and rail in particular), audio and video compact disc, CD, merchants and individuals who play music with their handy palm-size mini speakers in public places, all constitute sources of noise.Another major noise pollutant here in Nigeria is the noise from power generating plants.
Man and noise can hardly be separated. The life of a man begins with noise at birth and ends with noise at the grave. Thus noise has become a part of the human life and environment. The human environment is usually a beehive of activities day in, day out. So wherever man is found, whether he dwells in thatplace as an abode or for business or any other purpose, chances are that, noise won’t be far from such place.
While noise is regarded as part of man’s life and environment, it may be life-threatening if there is continuous exposure for a long time. The noise-bound human nature and environment may eventually become detrimental to man’s health and living if not controlled and regulated.
Users of loudspeakers in public places must, by compulsion, provide insulation that can prevent noise pollution or unusual loudness of any kind of sound. When the area or confinement where the noise originates from is soundproof (isolated or enclosed), the high-pitch sound is not heard by those in that vicinity or within their reach.
Some Nigerians, when in public buses, are in the habit of playing music with their phones and other music player devices placed on loudspeakers. Without considering whether or not the music is noise to other passengers in the bus, they raise the volume and even sing along. People who do such feel they entertain others in the process, whereas they create a nuisance and pollute the environment with noise.It is not every passenger in the bus that will like the music being played. So civility demands that the right of others to peace, serene environment and wellbeing is respected as well. This anomaly must be corrected in our society.
Environmental disturbance is more prevalent in cities and developing areas than in rural areas because of the high population density and level of industrialisation. Noise pollution caused by road traffic in densely populated areas is enough to wreak havoc on the human ears with different disturbing sounds of engines and horns from vehicles stuck in traffic.
When the human ear is hit with intense pressure of sound waves which produce vibrations in the process, body muscles may be affected. Tinnitus (perception of noise such as a ringing or beating sound, which has no external source) and hearing loss are the major long-term effects of constant exposure to noise pollution. These effects of noise pollution should not be underestimated because noise can have deleterious impacts on our health.
Generally, the degree of hearing loss or overall threshold hearing level of a person is determined by testing the two ears across a range of frequencies. Hearing loss is in four categories – mild, moderate, severe or profound. To diagnose and monitor hearing loss, a graphical representation of the hearing ability is considered through an audiogram. The faintest or quietest sound a human can hear is zero decibel. This actually does not mean absence of sound, it only shows that such sound could only be barely detected. So a person with hearing loss can only hear a sound louder than zero decibel.
In the wake of the ill-effects of noise pollution on people’s lives and living, environmental laws and regulations have been put in place by the government to ensure some permissible noise levels, particularly in residential and industrial areas.
TheLagos State Environmental ProtectionAgency, LASEPA, says the maximum sound level is meant to be at 90 decibels in industrial areas during the day and 80 decibels at night. In mixed areas (residential and industrial), the limit of sound is expected to be at 65 decibels during the day and 55 decibels at night. Any sound that exceeds these limits is regarded as noise pollution and offenders will face the full wrath of the law.
It will be recalled that, few years ago, LASEPA shut down some religious houses, hotels, club houses and beer parlors for contravening environmental laws and guidelines on noise pollution. Also, in June this year, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Environmental Protection Agency issued a strong warning to Abuja residents against noise pollution. The agency said it had received many complaints from FCT residents on noise pollution from clubs, recreational centres among others. The agency further revealed that it had confiscated some loudspeakers from some offenders. More needs to be done.
To return sanity to the environment, federal and state environmental protection agencies must ensure the continuous enforcement of existing environmental laws, arrest and prosecution of violators.
In order to tackle noise pollution head-on and achieve a noise-free healthy environment by the government, there should be regular public awareness, sensitisation and enlightenment on the adverse effects of noise pollution on human health and environment.
*Ojewale, a public affairs analyst, wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone may choose to listen to whatever they like at any volume, but here is a caveat: avoid continuous exposure to loud sound and be kind enough to your ears by protecting them from hearing loss occasioned by noise.
*Kayode Ojewale writes in via email@example.com