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WHAT’S WITH THE NOISE? -Remilekun Toviho

Noise pollution is generally defined as regular exposure to elevated sound levels that may lead to adverse effects in humans or other living organisms.
According to the World Health Organization, sound levels less than 70 dB are not damaging to living organisms, regardless of how long or consistent the exposure is.

That said, exposure for more than 8 hours to constant noise beyond 85 dB may be hazardous. If you work for 8 hours daily in close proximity to a busy road or highway, you are very likely exposed to traffic noise pollution around 85dB.

Noise pollution is so omnipresent in our society that we have become accustomed to it. We only acknowledge it when we have the opportunity to sit back and listen to experts about it. Noise pollution ranges from street traffic sounds from vehicles, construction sounds like drilling or other heavy machinery in operation, iron welding and so on.

Businessdictionary.com defines Noise Pollution as a form and level of environmental sound that is generally considered likely to annoy, distract or even harm other people. Britannica.com says Noise pollution is unwanted or excessive sound that can have deleterious effects on human health and environmental quality. 

Noise pollution is not a new development but it increasingly seems like Nigerians, like the rest of the world, are oblivious of its dangers.
Noise pollution has been described as a stench in the ear. This is true though many may be unaware of or decide to ignore it. A sound or sounds can become pollutants when they are either excessively high or unpleasant so much that it causes temporary disruption in the natural balance.

The height of noise-making in this country is mind boggling; it is especially so when the density of the audio decibel is so high but doesn’t seem to have any effect on the hearing of those around. They move around as though nothing is wrong. I think we need to educate Nigerians of the dangers of exposing the ear to high levels of audio volume.
Some of the sounds created by humans create health problems especially as civilization grows. Many of us are guilty of disturbing public peace knowingly or unknowingly.

Although noise pollution is probably not easy to measure, as humans we should be able to differentiate between the moderate and the extreme. It is true that the definition of noise is subjective since one person’s idea of exultant, joyful music might be pure torment to the other but I think it is safe to conclude that uncontrolled noise threatens the health and welfare of humans.

Traffic or vehicular noise is a large constituent of our noise pollution crisis. It is the most common source of noise pollution affecting humans. Car honks are blaring on the street without ceasing. It is much like a child playing with a newly acquired toy. Some even push the honk rhythmically to make music.
Vehicle owners abuse the use of honks by fixing inappropriate ones. A motorbike rider for example fixes the honk meant for a trailer lorry so he can scare other road users to pave way for him. Any attempt to caution is rebuffed. And rather than get support from others to correct, all you get is complacency. You are to let sleeping dog lie. You are told to keep calm after all you won’t leave on the bus forever. Or let the bike rider be, he is ignorant. If he is ignorant why do we not take it as a duty to enlighten him? If he is ignorant isn’t it in order for those who know better to correct him?

Still on the streets, commercial audio products sellers are at work, constant loud music in or near commercial venues such as telecommunications stores. The latter is ever promoting sales of phones and related gadgets with music and dancing almost all through the day. All classes of music are blaring from their speakers. The volume, most of the time is without regard for other human beings.

Leaving the street, we are back to our homes hoping to find rest only to be treated to another onslaught of deafening noise. People use surround sound audio gadgets, popularly called home theater. The sound coming from these gadgets are gross -not in a bad way- but many do not understand that these gadgets are not meant for such tiny spaces.
Tenants 1,2, and 3 each have a surround sound system. Soon as power supply is restored or the generator is powered, each person wants to play music or watch TV.
Rather than listen to audio at a moderate level, the level is tuned up. Why? So the Tenant can listen from behind the window where he or she is doing dishes. Two other persons are doing just about the same thing in their rooms or apartment.
Each person wants to drown the noise from the other neighbors.
One wonders how such cacophony of audio could possibly be enjoyed by anyone!

So we have a competition. It becomes as though it is time to compete for the award of the best noise maker. Or perhaps the official noise maker in the neighborhood. Another tenant will disregard others who are fast asleep and watch TV shows at midnight at the same level as during daylight.

If we find ourselves following the craze of have the so-called home theater in our tiny cubicles, it is only responsible of us to moderate the volume so as not to infringe on other people’s right to peace of mind.

A related noise irritant, which is also widespread, is the sound of hundreds of power generators in the neighborhood. It should be quickly pointed out that this is no fault of residents. The generator has become an essential prop for every home because of electricity supply situation in the country.

Yes that is a reality we have to live with.
Despite this, we should do things in moderation. Some generators have been so overused they just sound like clicking of parts in the engine. Neighbors have to fight each other over the positioning of generators and the greasiness of overused ones in addition to the noise.

A fashion designer I used to know years back  would begin his work over night with his almost dead generator to the chagrin of other tenants. He switched on the generating set by 11:00 pm till the wee hours of the next day. His claimed he had a right to his shop and he had a right to make the most of the time to meet up with customers demand during the festive seasons.
Everyone kept quiet either because they were ignorant on the issue of rights or they did not want to be tagged "enemies of progress".
But beyond the superficial peace that will be forged based on sentiments, the effect of the noise is far reaching.

The noise from these home appliances is actually injurious to health long term. Sometimes it is short term.
A neighbor managing high blood pressure is in trying to sleep. He or she cannot sleep with the variety of noise. Lack of sound sleep aggravates this condition. In terms of security, generators should not be left running till too late at night or early in the morning. There has been instances where armed robbers carried out operations unhindered because the noise of the active power generating sets drowned either the commotion in entry, the ensuing barking of orders and frightful pleas, sound of gun shots or cry for help.
Men of the dark also lure out their unsuspecting victims by switching off the power in the hope that the owner would come out to check. This would give them access to enter. For such a reasons, some Community Development Associations set a rule as to the latest time a generating set should be left on.
There should be respect for others residing or located within earshot of the source of noise.

Then there is this very controversial one. The "holy noise". This is the sound coming from worship centers. Many of these places of worship are located in residential areas. That’s the situation. This is an issue which generates mixed feelings. The service hours are dreaded by residents who just want to have peaceful sleep or rest.
Worship hours are endured by these set of people. Others grumble or speak openly against such pollution.
Yet others squarely direct their complaint to the source of the noise or the constituted authority. The funny thing is the latter is seen as devilish and against the spread of the words and teachings of the supreme God. They are tagged enemies of religion. Special supplications and prayers are offered against those who want to silence the gospel. Such an attack on innocent people who only want to have rest after a long day’s work is not fair. Such an attack on people who are home recuperating from illness is unjust. Imagine a worship center near a hospital. This is not a fiction. We have such examples around. How does an invalid person heal with so much noise? Hospitals are supposed to be serene. Not that there aren’t other sources of noise in the hospital itself.

Complaint about noise from these sacred worship places should not be seen as attack or antagonism against the gospel. This is for the overall good of the society which every religion should stand for. Complaints or enforcement of noise laws should not be considered witch-hunting.
After all, there is nothing like holy noise. Noise is noise, no sentiments needed.

A trend that is beginning to catch up in our society is location of small cottage industries near residential areas. Some of these factories emit noise which is annoying and irritating. This is referred to as Industrial noise. This includes sound of machinery when in operation. A printing press, however small, located on a property housing live-in tenants is an anomaly. Tenants in such a building will constantly have to deal with noise from the power generating set (public power supply is not a reliable source to run a business), noise from the machinery and so on.

These scenarios of noise pollution painted above are by no means exhaustive. Noise pollution is a serious problem. We must not let it be for our own good.

Isn’t it possible to listen to audio at moderate levels. Is it very difficult to understand that one’s right stops where that of other begin? The moment you do things that infringe on the right of another person then you cease to have a right. Moderation is key.

Whether we realize we are subjected to it or not, noise pollution can be hazardous to our health in various ways. It could lead to hypertension and sleep disturbances. Loud sudden noise can cause deleteriousness, particularly, at night or when all an individual needs is rest. We may not consider the latter a problem. Only medical check-up can explain its seriousness. However, in a layman’s explanation, sleep disturbance affects individual’s work performance during the day, it leads to hypertension and cardiovascular disease which will cost money to treat. Noise negatively affects school performance in children.

The effects of noise exposure on hearing depend on the intensity and duration of the noise. The effects may be temporary or permanent. A single exposure to an extremely intense sound, such as an explosion, may produce a severe and permanent loss of hearing. There are major health conditions that arise from noise pollution. They include Inflammation and tumour such as Labyrinthitis, Acoustic neuroma, Ménière disease.
The mere sound of the names of the diseases are scary. But simply put, loud abrupt sound can damage the eardrum while sustained lower volume damages the middle ear.

Other health conditions related to noise are constant headaches, colitis, ulcers and asthma. 
Noise pollution can heighten stress as it does blood pressure. It can make one irritable, become unnecessarily angry and frustrated. This we do not need socially.

Noise also damages building structure overtime. This is because vibrations induced by the sound waves affect the structure. This will gradually lead to the weakening of the walls of such properties. It means that buildings with tenants blaring sound at very high levels at all times is at the risk of collapsing.

It is, therefore, more than important to protect our hearing to avoid diseases of the ear than worry about the minor conflicts complaint to effect corrective measures will bring. At the individual level, the ears can be protected with ear earplugs whenever exposed to elevated noise levels such as those from an inconsiderate neighbour, by avoiding prolonged use of earphones at high volume, by moderating noise level around the home with the change in time (day morphing into night).

More importantly, widespread education, implementation and enforcement of noise regulations is necessary. Many do not know that that there is such a thing as noise law or noise regulation. 

The law prescribes the level of noise permitted in the atmosphere especially in urban areas and that there are sanctions for violating such laws. Aside from education, the implementing arm of government, the apex being the Ministry of environment in consonance with local government authorities should proactively monitor and enforce these laws for the sake of sanity.

The effect of noise pollution outweighs the efforts necessary to control this pollution.

Oyo state has been in the news recently concerning the enforcement of the noise regulations. The law makers were reported to have invited the Commissioners for Ministry of Environment, Urban Development and Physical Planning and Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism on the issue of noise pollution by worship houses. 

The conclusion was to ban any place of worship adjudged to have violated the laws.
This is a step in the right direction. Other states should follow suit so that we do not all go deaf from this irritant.


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