Constant honking of horns, humming of engines and blaring loudspeakers - Delhi is a giant that makes enough noise to make you go crazy.
No wonder, headaches, irritation, hypertension, restlessness, hearing impairment and sleep disorders are common among Dellhiites. The rules to curb noise pollution are in place but in the absence of an effective enforcement strategy, they have been of little use.
However, some positive movement is expected towards making Delhi a calmer and less noisy city with government officials meeting on Tuesday to mull ways to curb noise pollution.
"We have been taking effective measures. It's (curbing pollution) a continuous process. Top officials of the government will brainstorm on how to curb noise pollution and ensure effective implementation of the noise pollution (regulation and control) rules, 2000, in the Capital," said a senior official.
But environmentalists do not share the official enthusiasm.
Anumita Roy Choudhury of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said, "Noise pollution levels in the Capital have been going up consistently. This is an unhealthy situation. There is no concrete action plan with the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC)."
"Monitoring is not effective. Pollution control measures are taken and awareness campaigns carried out only on occasions such as Diwali. There has to be better monitoring and data collection for effective enforcement," she said.
Chetan Upadhyaya of Satya Foundation, which conducted a study on noise levels in Delhi last year, said, "On an average, a Delhiite is exposed to 75 decibels of noise - 20-25 decibels more than the safe limit. And we conducted our survey on a public holiday. Otherwise, the findings would have been alarming."
Doctors say anything above 85 decibels may be harmful for the ear depending on how long a person is exposed to the noise. "There is always a trade-off between loudness level and duration. Exposure to loud noise for a short duration can cause similar damage to the ear as less louder sound running for a prolonged period. Above 90 decibel is potentially damaging to the inner ear," said Dr Manuj Agarwal, senior audiologist, Amplifon India.
"Loud noise damages the ear cells and if the person does not get treatment in time, the cells die eventually, resulting in permanent hearing loss," said another doctor.