In 15 years, the city’s vehicular population rose by 60%, according to the state motor vehicles department. And according to doctors, this has been a major contributor to noise-induced hearing loss in the last decade.
Dr Shashikant Mhashal, head of the ENT department at Cooper Hospital, said he treats at least two patients every month with noise-induced hearing loss. “Truck drivers, autorickshaw and taxi drivers and traffic personnel are the worst affected. Also, people living near congested roads, near airports and railway platforms tend to lose hearing because they are exposed to high noise for long durations,” Mhashal said, adding such patients require hearing aid, which affects their quality of life.
A study by Awaaz Foundation in Mumbai found that four-wheelers have sound levels between 80 and 82 decibels. Ideally, such vehicles should emit sound only up to 75 decibels. Doctors said anything that emits sound beyond 50 decibels can be damaging to a person’s overall well-being.
“Concentration loss and headaches are the most common complaints of people exposed to high decibel levels,” said Dr Hetal Marfatia, ENT department at KEM Hospital, Parel. “We see many drivers, traffic personnel with hearing loss. It is difficult to say what causes it, but that does not mean we continue honking. Any ringing in the ear or irritation should be shown to a doctor. At times, people don’t even realise their hearing is damaged.”
Dr Prashant Kele, ENT consultant, Surana Hospital, Chembur, said people living in and around highways develop noise-induced hearing loss. “Even exposure to sudden honking can lead to what we call as sensory neural hearing loss, where the nerve in the ear is irreversibly damaged. I am treating a 12-year-old with hearing loss that you would see in a 50-year-old man, who has worked in some factory with high sound emission, Kele said.
The situation is similar across the country as well. A study stated the total number of registered motor vehicles in the country increased from about 0.3 million in 1951 and 21.4 million in 1991 to about 142 million in 2011. Children, doctors said, are the worst-affected. “Older children are less severely or directly affected by noise, but children with autism and sensory concerns may have severe problems with loud or constant sounds,” said Dr Samir Dalwai, president, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Mumbai.