Continued and prolonged exposure to loud sounds has been known to elevate stress levels and indirectly contribute to altered blood pressure levels, diabetes and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. These problems aggravate as one grows older and puts increased stress on the individual, doctors have pointed out.

The health hazards of chronic exposure to noise or unwanted sounds were the focus of a recent discussion on ‘Sound Pollution' organised by the Indian Medical Association in association with the Science International.

“Chronic exposure to noise has a physiological and psychological effect on an individual. If the physiological effect could be anything from decreased hearing ability to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, psychologically, exposure to unwanted, loud sounds over days can lead to irritation, annoyance and aggressive behaviour, affecting one's personality,” Marthanda Pillai, former professor of Neuro Surgery, Medical College Hospital, who is also the founder-chairman of Ananthapuri Hospitals here, said.

Hearing loss

He said that noise-induced hearing loss and progressive loss of hearing ability because of constant exposure to loud sounds were much more common than one would like to believe. Elevated stress levels due to loud sounds would affect one's sleep, decrease concentration or attention levels and would affect one's productivity and performance at workplace, he pointed out.

“Sound sleep is crucial to one's health and well being. It energises and recharges the individual and is essential for one's physical and mental health. Sleep deprivation can result in chronic fatigue, headaches and affect workplace behaviour,” Dr. Pillai added.

Sleep deprivation

Problems of sleep deprivation and heightened stress levels were becoming increasingly common in many households during the festival seasons, when huge sound boxes blared from all directions. More awareness should be created of the health problems caused by noise pollution among the public so that people were forced to follow the regulations regarding decibel levels, especially during the night hours, he said.

G. Shanker, architect, who spoke about sound pollution and environment, pointed out that from time immemorial, the finer talents of human beings were awakened by the sounds of silence. The silent hours of dawn or night were very important for musicians and other creative professionals such as writers. But such silent hours were becoming a rarity these days, he said.

He also felt that in the environment, the disappearance of house sparrows and other local species of birds had something to do with the sound waves emitted by the mobile towers around us.

Mohanan Pillai, lawyer, who spoke about the legal aspects regarding sound pollution pointed out that the current laws regarding decibel levels were quite adequate but that these remained on paper because of the lack of political will to implement it. Organised public movement against violation of decibel levels and laws governing the use of sound boxes alone could bring about any positive changes in this regard, he added.

The seminar was inaugurated by Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar. Senior IMA officials and Thiruvananthapuram Medical College faculty were present on the occasion.