There has been a tremendous response to my previous article about sound pollution. Especially young mothers have sent me many queries.
Some information has to be reiterated. It is a question of the healthy and bright future of your child. I repeat it is dangerous to expose your unborn baby to noise. It interferes with the normal development of children and infants and especially harmful for the growing foetus.
Sound is energy — energy which can penetrate through matter. The human physical reaction to noise is similar to reaction to a crisis: the blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, digestive juices reduce, adrenaline levels increase, pupils dilate and body muscles contract.
It also reduces the amount of nutrient value we absorb from food.
Noisy generators in the driveways (where most people place them) or markets create a well of harmful noise. The noise is amplified by the concrete floor and the walls. This is resonance, noise magnified many times. It affects the owners themselves, shoppers, neighbours, everybody.
Generators should be mounted on heavy duty rubberised mountings to absorb shock and a barney or sound muffler to cut off sound. Why not move it from the sidewalk or driveway preferably to the roof top enabling the noise to escape into the air along with the diesel fumes.
In Delhi, old buildings are being torn down and new ones built everyday. Every neighbourhood has construction going on. Construction machines, stone cutting machines, drilling machines, floor polishing — all create terrific noise that is highly injurious to us all.
At home, higher decibels for the advertisement breaks on television are disgusting but a daily reality. They literally scream for your attention. Cutting out the sound the moment the ads come can reduce the stress. Noise, especially high pitched sound, travels through the body and creates heavy duty stress.
Mothers can be exposed to this dangerous situation right inside their own homes. The kitchen can be the honey trap. A bad ball bearing can turn the harmless foodmixer into a health hazard — screeching and whining at high decibels. Exposure to these high levels affects the unborn foetus. Its heart beats shoot up to a staggering 140 beats as the mothers heart too races to act as a pace maker to stabilise it.
Even before the child is born, the seeds of irreversible disease are already embedded. Heart problems at a young age, a tendency to hyper tension infantile diabetes and mental aberrations — all these are silent killers. We may say "but there is no family history?" But unknowingly we have done it to ourselves.
Remember the age old (sound) advice to expectant Mothers: stay calm, have good thoughts and listen to pleasant things and see beautiful things. All that affects the mother affects the child. It is a simple truth. If you feel sudden fear, the baby also suffers a rush of adrenalin. If you are angry and your BP goes up, the baby also gets hyper active as his BP goes up too. Repeated trauma damages the child's fragile system and damage takes place.
The guidelines are fairly simple. While listening to music on your Ipod, you should be able to hear a knock on the door, the telephone ring, your partners comment etc. A sound which blocks out all else is definitely too loud.
The ear is a delicate mechanism. It has a very important function. It is the first organ to develop in the foetus. So the baby can actually hear from 4 weeks onwards. When nerves in the ear suffer damage, loss of hearing occurs. That apart, a ringing or dull continuous sound — tinnitus is one of the symptoms which warns you.
Losing the capacity to hear some frequencies is also a warning. Can you hear the rustle of leaves in the evening breeze? Can you hear the birds singing? Can you hear the rain dripping? These are the healing sounds of nature for which our ears were created. Look what we have imposed on them. Manmade sounds — the shrill screech of a bad fan belt, the high pitched air horn of the speeding truck, tube well drilling machine, the generators and the hum of hundreds of air-conditioners — are altering our lives.
Progress is important. It’s part of evolution but carried out with caution can give us progress along with quality of life.
(Mike H Pandey is a conservationist and winner of three Green Oscars)