Noise pollution can lead to progressive hearing loss over time

11:58 am Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine

About 900 million people are likely to suffer hearing loss by 2050

New Delhi, 4 March 2019: Statistics by the WHO indicate that there are about 466 million people across the world with disabling hearing loss. This number is likely to increase to 900 million by 2050 if no action is taken. The need of the hour is to lay emphasis on early identification and intervention for hearing loss. More than one billion young adults aged between 12 and 35 years are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to higher recreational noise levels. Around one-third of people over 65 years of age are affected by disabling hearing loss.

The primary causes of hearing loss have been identified as inherited diseases, infections, continued exposure to loud noise, drugs and aging. Many of these causes leading to hearing loss could be prevented by approaches like immunization and restricted exposure to loud noise. Adopting strategies like immunization would help in effective prevention of hearing loss in children that occur as a result of infections like rubella, meningitis and mumps.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Everyday noise exposure over time has an impact upon our ability to hear and on the degree of hearing loss that develops. Constant exposure to loud noise can cause high frequency sensory neural hearing loss. An exposure of 90 dB (which is equivalent to the noise made by a power lawn mower or passing motorcycle) is allowed for 8 hours, 95 dB for 4 hours, 100 dB only for 2 hours, 105 dB (power mower) for one hour and 130 dB for (live rock music) 20 minutes. Listening to music at 110-120 dB damages the hearing in less than an hour and a half. A short blast of loud noise – greater than 120 to 155 dB – such as from fire crackers can cause severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, pain, or hyperacusis (pain associated with loud noise). Most unregulated large bombs can produce a noise of more than 125 dB.”

It is recommended that people who are continuously exposed to a noise level of greater than 85 dB should be provided hearing protection in the form of muffs or plugs.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Vedic literature has described four gradations or levels of sound: Para (background noise of nature, no spoken sound), pashyanti (observed sound or perceived in mind), madhyama (audible sound), and vaikhari (articulated sound or spoken words). We should speak in pashyanti and madhyama. Noise shifts the body to sympathetic mode and takes us away from conscious-based decisions. Hence, we should make an effort to speak softly to minimize the ambient noise levels. All of us are now used to mikes in class rooms or lecture halls or DJ music. Instead, ask the audience ‘Am I audible?’ If you are audible without mike, then don’t use a mike.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Traffic flow around areas such as schools and hospitals should be minimized as much as possible. Signboards displaying ‘Silence zone’, ‘No honking’ must be placed near them.
  • Efforts should be made to ban the use of horns with jarring sounds, motorbikes with damaged exhaust pipes, and noisy trucks.
  • The use of loudspeakers in parties and discos, as well as public announcements systems should be checked and discouraged.
  • Noise rules must be stringent and strictly enforced near such silence zones.
  • Planting trees along roads and in residential areas is a good way to reduce noise pollution as they absorb sound.

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