21 Saturday
April 2018
The Noisy Indian.

India is the land that gave yoga and meditation to the world. Silence is therapeutic for the soul. The sound of chirping birds, the rustling of leaves, the tinkle of running water……these are a treat to the ears. Unfortunately, we modern Indians have unlearned most of this ancient wisdom, and surround ourselves with the loudest of noises: Loud music,loud conversations, loud mobile ring tones and incesssant honking.

Noise is any sound that is unpleasant to the ears. One person’s favourite music may be a terrific din to the other. But Honking , is a universal noise. Nowhere else in the world do people honk like Indians. When the traffic light is turning yellow, when the light has just turned green, at every turn and corner, when we see someone slowing down, when someone ahead of us is alighting from a vehicle, when we’re passing by, while overtaking, while wanting to overtake and sometimes just for no reason at all.

When one travels out of India the silence takes a few days getting used to. So many cars, and no one honks. In a traffic jam, yet no one honks. A little bit of patience, a little bit of self restrain, and the whole city can be a lot quieter. There are people who tell me, arrey you can’t drive on Indian roads without honking. I tried, and guess what? I succeeded! I haven’t used the horn more than 4 times in 2 years, that was to prevent someone from ramming into me. So I tell you from personal experience, it is possible. Yes, we can drive without honking in India.

Intensity of sound

The unit for measuring sound pressure (or intensity) is called a Decibel (dB). 0 decibel is the sound of minimum intensity which is audible in absolute silence. That means 0 dB is not absolute 0. Every 10dB is 10 times more, that is 20 dB is hundred times & 30 dB is thousand times & 110 dB ten thousand crores more powerful sound than 0 dB. Normal spoken voice ranges from 50 to 60 decibels. Loud talk and shouting can go up to 65 dB. Exposure to sounds more than 85dB can cause irreversible damage to our inner ear. Please note: the range of normal automobile horns is 90-112dB . That means every time you blow the horn, you are damaging your own hearing.

The danger of very Loud Sounds

Continuous exposure to high-intensity noise can result in temporary and even permanent hearing loss to human beings and Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is the number one cause for Preventable Permanent Deafness.

It is not just the ears alone that suffer the adverse effects of noise pollution. Continuous exposure to high intensity noise as well as sudden bursts of high intensity sound can lead to a host of physical, mental and social problems.

Auditory effects:

1. Permanent Hearing Loss
2. Tinnitus
3. Aggravation of vertigo especially in Meniere’s disease

Neuropsychological effects

1. Headache
2. Increased stress.
3. Memory impairment.
4. Sleeplessness
5. Decreased cognitive capacity.
6. Aggravation of emotional and psychiatric disorders.

Effect on vital organs

1. Tachycardia
2. Hypertension
3. Aggravation of cardiac disease, asthma, hyperacidity.
4. Increase in blood sugar.
5. Infertility and sexual dysfunction.
6. Congenital abnormalities of fetus and abortions.

The energy reaching inner ear is converted to electric impulses and reaches the auditory cortex of the brain. Simultaneously it stimulates the Hypocampus and hypothalamus thereby the autonomic nervous system and pituitary. This can explain the various effects on endocrine system and other vital system including cardiovascular, endocrine and immune system. In addition loud sound increases stress and also the level of circulating free radicals which are cytotoxic. This can explain the endothelial damage to blood vessels and also increased incidence of stroke and heart attacks.

What We Can Do

India is one of the noisiest countries in the world. Delhi , Mumbai and Kolkata are in the top 10 noisy cities globally. Our cities generate a cacophony of high intensity sounds, mainly due to the rapid but unscientific industrialization and urbanization processes which we are seeing today. Many advanced nations have already tackled the problem of noise pollution with technological solutions. But in India, we have still a long way to go.

Prevention of noise generation at source is the need of the hour for which every single person has to take a decision.

Honking unnecessarily while driving vehicles, using high-intensity loud speakers especially in public places, generating uncontrolled noise inside industrial establishments, construction sites, etc. should not only be discouraged, but avoided altogether. Public meetings, religious festivals and other celebrations should be within tolerable noise limits. If they do exceed the limits, it must be brought to the notice of the authorities. The police should be sensitized about the Noise Rules 2000 and their responsibility to make people comply.

Avoid unpleasant noises while at home, to ensure a peaceful & healthy living. Playing the television very loudly, loud music from home theatre or audio systems, running noisy home appliances for long not only annoy but affects your family members specially children pregnant ladies & old persons. Also we should be concerned about our neighbours; respect their right to privacy and good health.

Using earphone continuously for music is a common scene among youngsters. A lot of teenagers come to ENT surgeons with high frequency permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. We should understand that even low sound exposure for continuous long period will damage the highly complex hair cells inside the cochlea. The continuous use of ear phones has to be discouraged. Also it is a fact that apart from the genetic factors the cumulative effect of whatever sound we hear in our lifetime is the reason for developing presbycusis (old age deafness) at an early age.

There are a variety of laws already in place to address the problem of sound pollution. If they are implemented efficiently, the issue can be alleviated to a very large extent.

Most people feel that they cannot bring a change. But change starts with us. Stop honking ; drive with a bit more patience. Ask the driver not to honk. Educate your friends, relatives and children about the hazards of loud noises. Become a Safe Sound volunteer & propagate the message of Safe Sound in our society. India is made of 1.3 Billion people like us. Be the change.

This International Noise Awareness Day 25th April take the No Horn Challenge, drive without Honking for one week. Hopefully that will break the habit of a lifetime. Let us try to make a better India.

Dr Sarika Verma
ENT Surgeon
National Initiative for Safe Sound Convener Gurgaon

12 Thursday
April 2018
Beti Kaise Bachao?

When our Prime Minister gave the slogan, “Beti bachao, Beti padhao” it was a very welcome step. In a Nation steeped in female foeticide, it was exactly what we wanted to hear. But the incidents of the last few weeks are not only harrowing, they make the skin crawl.

The brutal gang rape of a little child in Kathua, who’s kidnapping and murder were planned for weeks in advance, because she belonged to a different religion. Her perpetrators are not being hung out on the streets like they truly deserve, their arrest is being criticized, politicized and the Indian Flag waved and “Jai Shri Ram” chanted to honour them. Ram ka naam badnaam na karo. There is a limit to how much politics can enter normal people’s lives, and that has been crossed with this incident.

The Unnao rape is even worse, the alleged perpetrator is a ruling party MLA. Instead of providing justice, the victim’s father was tortured and killed in Police Custody. Shocked. Harrowed. Shamed. India’s daughters have never had it easy. But this kind of brazen tomfoolery of Law and Order makes me sick beyond measure. Enough is enough.

The time has come to have a complete overhaul of the law and order machinery in our country. Police should be made independent of all political interference. They have to become the protectors of the people not the criminals; they must be made answerable to their own departments alone. For years we have watched in disgust when the police are no more than henchmen of the local MLAs who are a LAW unto themselves. How long will we keep taking it???? When is the highest power in our land going to do something about it?

Radio Jockey Naved had a message which went viral last month, that he would like to get an in-utero daughter aborted so she doesn’t grow up and get raped. What a sad statement for India that is. We cannot keep our children safe. What does that speak about our administration, judiciary, police, politicians?

Justice delayed is justice denied. And when the accused is a celebrity, Justice becomes a what’s app joke! He was not guilty when he ran over people on the street , his own body guard’s eye witness account was not enough to send him to prison. He was found guilty of killing endangered blackbucks , but after 20 years of the case he was in jail for less than 48 hours. The judge was changed at midnight, to ensure the superstar celebrity does not have to be in jail for a wee bit longer. “Being Human” is apparently enough to get out of the tightest criminal cases. Justice is not blindfolded any more, it sees who the accused is, and gives judgments to suit their stature.

The people of India , mute spectators are watching and the message to them is LOUD and CLEAR. Your lives, your children, your animals, your rights are NOTHING when it comes to the Political forces in POWER. Be it a Sri Sri who willfully destroys the banks of the Yamuna for his World Event and does not even pay the paltry fine imposed by the National Green Tribunal, openly challenging the LAW , daring anyone to raise a voice against him. The same man goes on National media and threatens to make India into Syria,but no one takes action against him. I ask you, how much fine would you have to pay if your car’s Pollution Under Control certificate is out of date? It wont matter if your car’s emissions are non polluting.

The LAW has to be equal, but in India it never is. The world over international stars, Olympic medalists, Members of Parliament are sent to jail and treated at par with criminals if they are found guilty. In India , innocent fathers are killed for protesting against their daughters’rapes, and the politicians are quiet.

There can never be a better time than now , for initiating a complete Judicial reform process. For 70 years we have been following antiquated laws, procedures, and look where it has landed the Judiciary today. Can anyone say justice has been served in the celebrity’s cases? Lakhs of cases are dragging on in courts across the country….. is Justice being delivered?

My appeal to all Indians is to rise above party lines and raise questions on this mockery of justice , law and order.We cannot keep quiet when crimes are taking place and too many children, girls and women have been suffering for too long. I ask for a strong stringent law enforcing authority, to keep our children safe. Today it is someone else’s daughters, tomorrow it may be your own.

Na Hindu khatrey main hai,
Na mussalman khatrey main hai,
Uth jayo deshwaasiyon,
Insaan khatrey main hai.

Dr.Sarika Verma
ENT Surgeon & Allergy Specialist