Delhi is ranked first on a list of 50 world cities where hearing was most degraded.
In the World Hearing Index , which ranks cities according to noise pollution and hearing loss, a person living in Delhi has the hearing capacity of anybody at least 20 years older than him/her.
Delhi ranked second in the list of cities with the most noise and maximum hearing loss when taken together. Guangzhou, in China, topped the list followed by Cairo in Egypt. Mumbai ranked fourth.
Also, measured only on the basis of noise pollution, Delhi was the world’s fifth noisiest city.
The study found that the average hearing loss has a 64% positive correlation with noise pollution levels in each city, indicating hearing loss was a direct or indirect outcome of living in these cities. This means there is a close link between the hearing loss and urban noise pollution, but not all the hearing loss is due to the pollution.
The global ranking was prepared by researchers at Mimi and Charite University Hospital in Berlin by combining information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Norwegian-based technology research group, SINTEF, to create a noise pollution index. This was then compared with the data collected by Mimi Hearing Technologies on 200,000 people from a hearing test given in the cell phone.
City doctors were surprised by the ranking, but said it was plausible. “Hearing loss because of the loud noises in our surrounding is a gradual process. Nobody comes to the clinic and says that they have had a hearing loss because of traffic,” said Dr Girish Raheja, senior ENT consultant at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.
However, over the last decade, Dr Raheja has seen a 15% rise in the number of people with hearing loss. “This increase will also include rise in age-related hearing loss due to longevity or preventable hearing loss in children,” he said.
“There is no research to show the health impacts of noise pollution in India, but there has been a definite increase in the number of people with hearing loss. Nowadays, I also get patients who are 35 – 40 years old and have started losing hearing ability. Lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension could also be the contributing factors,” said Dr Sanjay Sachdeva, director of ENT department at Max healthcare.
What can be done?
“On a personal level, people have to reduce noise exposure. This would mean driving with glasses rolled up, having double-sheet windows if the house, office or shop is situated near the main road,” said Dr Raheja.
However, the city on the whole has to work towards reducing noise pollution, he said.
“We are a honk-happy country, whereas honking is looked down upon in other countries. We have to create awareness. Sound barriers can also be used on the main roads to cut down the noise reaching the nearby buildings,” said Dr Sachdeva.
Then, there are festivities. “Diwali is one of the biggest causes of noise-induced hearing loss. And, now weddings are picking up. The so-called ‘DJs’ play such loud music at weddings that during the wedding season it has now become routine for me to receive one or two people every day with hearing loss after attending a wedding,” said Dr Raheja.