Noise pollution hits health hard

Prothom alo illustration
Prothom alo illustration

Sound may be an important part of everyday life, but when sound becomes noise, it can negatively affect our mental and physical health. Interestingly, it is the noise we are not even aware of it, which affects us the most, in particular, when we asleep.

The human ear is extremely sensitive, and never rests. So even when we sleep our ears are continuously functioning, picking up and transmitting sounds that are filtered and interpreted by different domains of the brain. It is a permanently opened auditory channel!

So, although we may not be aware of it, background noises of traffic, aircraft or music coming from a neighbour are still being processed, and our body is reacting to them in various ways via the nerves that use to travel to all parts of the body and the hormones released by the brain.

Surprisingly, in Dhaka city, the average sound level is 80-110dB in prime areas which is almost twice the maximum tolerated noise level by humans – 60dB – without suffering a gradual loss of hearing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO stated that around 5% of the world population is facing several kinds of health hazards at present due to complexities related to noise pollution.

Exposure to prolonged or excessive noise has been shown to cause countless health problems ranging from poor concentration, stress, lose of productivity in the workplaces, communication difficulties and fatigue from lack of sleep, to more serious issues such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, tinnitus and hearing loss.

Moreover, stress from exposure to elevated noise levels has been linked to annoyance, poor tolerance, aggression and anti-social behavior.

Does not it seem that people in the country with excessive sound pollution are more impatient and violent?

The reality is that the noises created in our day to day life are not going to suddenly fall silent. Instead, we need to realise that noise pollution is a serious health concern and find realistic and sustainable ways to manage and reduce it.

*The writer is resident physician at the pathology department, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).