16 Tuesday
April 2019
The Honking Conundrum

For everyone who drives in India honking seems to be a reflex action. People simply assume they cannot drive without blowing the horn. It is unfortunate because the rest of the world has been driving vehicles for several decades without needing to touch the horn.

It is a reflection of our upbringing that we have such little respect for other people. Anyone walking on the road, someone ahead of us who takes a millisecond longer than necessary to move their car when the light turns green, waiting as someone alights from the car in front of us, instead of slowing on intersections,we feel honking is our right.These are no indications for honking but we have such scant regard for fellow humans that we use the horn as much as we do.

Unnecessary honking is an endemic disease that afflicts every part of the country. A very proud exception is Sikkim where the entire state is a no honking zone and honking unnecessarily is a punishable offence . Chandigarh similarly has started implementing the Noise rules 2000 by punishing unnecessary honking with a thousand rupee fine.

I urge the traffic police departments to please start enforcing Noise rules 2000 in every city. Left to ourselves we will honk each other deaf. India has the highest number of people above 65 years age with irreversible sensorineural hearing loss. As longivity increases age induced hearing loss is becoming a huge burden for healthcare costs.Compounding noise induced hearing loss to this category will have a manifold impact. Already we see young people in their twenties and sometimes even teenagers presenting with complaints of noises in the ear called Tinnitus. Loud ambient noise exposure, excessive usage of headphones, excessive mobile phones are putting our hearing at risk.Everytime we honk we are exposing ourselves and people around us to the risk of noise induced hearing loss.

Noise induced hearing loss is a irreversible phenomenon. No medicine or surgery can help you hear normally again. One will need hearing aids or implants to understand speech. Hearing loss is a very important cause for social isolation, and is a factor contributing to depression in the elderly when they are left out of conversations or cannot communicate over the phone. Hearing loss in children results in learning disabilities and should be treated early and aggressively.

I would request all car makers to reduce the permissible level of horns from the current 90dB-112dB to 60dB-80dB. Any noise above 85dB harms the outer hair cells. Let’s ask the Environment ministry,ministry of health and transport ministry to change the permissible levels of horns in India: this single step will take India towards the internationally recommended ambient noise levels.

Our cities are so noisy that the noise levels are more than 1000 times what is actually permissible. Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata rank amongst the noisiest cities of the world. Multiple studies of sound mapping have shown an almost nation wide disregard for environmental laws.

24th April is International noise awareness day. It is a good time to remind ourselves and people around us that we can use the brake instead of using the horn. We can show patience while driving.We might not change the world alone but if we do our part gradually we can create a less noisy India.

Jai Hind.

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