Noise is a public health issue Consumer Concerns
By Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
April 20, 2003

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‘When noise annoys’. An article in the December 2002 issue of HEALTH Which? Advises us that noise is a health problem. “A constant barrage of unwanted noise isn’t just annoying. It’s increasingly seen as a public health issue, reports Thelma Agnew.”

The article indicates that it is MORE THAN JUST EARS. “It is not simply our ears that are vulnerable to noise. Noise and health expert Stephen Stansfeld, professor of psychiatry at St Bartholomew’s London Hospital School of Medicine says that noise can raise your blood pressure and increase your heart rate.”

In Guyana the noise nuisance is particularly annoying and destructive. It kills art and prevents creative persons from performing. An artist, writer, sculptor, cannot create when noise invades his or her home. The student preparing for an examination is unable to concentrate. A cricket fan complained of the noise nuisance and distraction when vendors created ear-splitting noises during the first Test Match.

Noisy generators have been a nuisance to neighbours. Some complain that the generator is situated by their fence and they receive the full blast. Noise in the workplace may be unavoidable, but, as is shown later in this article, there are regulations in the United Kingdom for the protection of the health of workers. It is reported that shattering noise levels used to deprive workers of their hearing. A sudden explosion can also do irreparable damage to one’s hearing.

“The strongest evidence on noise as a health hazard,” Professor Stansfeld says, “lies in the many studies linking noise with ‘annoyance’. Noise is a public health issue because it causes annoyance and interferes with people’s quality of life.”

To be exposed to constant noise when in one’s home is intolerable. Consumers have complained that police can assist only for very short periods. Police may visit the offending person and succeed in restoring peace. But, as soon as their backs are turned, the ‘boom boom’ is restored. Surely the answer is to close discos and other offending places of entertainment.

A year or two ago the police were carrying out a campaign against mini-buses that tormented commuters and others with their loud music. The campaign petered out. Now that the mini-buses have won their struggle for an increase in fares, they are treating their passengers to noise which in no way could be described as music. These are recordings of a male voice that never ceases to irritate those passengers who are accustomed to serenity. On occasions vulgar ‘jokes’ are offered on disc for the amusement of passengers.

Where is the traffic department? I would bet my bottom dollar that in no other country are buses permitted to irritate passengers in this fashion. Drivers and conductors are allowed to play what is their version of entertainment. Commuters who pay for their journey have no voice. Before entering the bus you may ask if there is any “music” and you receive the reply that it is soft music. When the journey is started then, too late, you realise that the word ‘music’ has several meanings.

In Canada, no one is allowed to speak to the driver of a bus. On long distances one can appreciate soft music but certainly not NOISE. Why have we become tolerant of this indiscipline? “This is Guyana,” may be the answer, implying that in this country we are all free to do exactly as we please without any regard to laws and regulations and the rights of other consumers.

It is now evident that our society is disintegrating. The indiscipline must stop. Those who are responsible for enforcement of the law must carry out their duties. Let us all join in an effort to restore discipline.

Some consumers may be interested in the Noise Facts that are given in the HEALTH Which? article.

“Noise is measured in decibels, dBA, Small increases in decibels indicate much greater increases in noise energy - it doubles every 10 decibels.

“60 dBA is an ordinary conversation
80 dBA is shouting
110 dBA is a pneumatic drill
140 dBA is the threshold of pain

“Exposure to noise at or above 85 dBA over time can harm hearing. Employers are legally obliged to assess risks and supply ear protectors if noise in the workplace reaches 85 dBA - above 90 dBA ear protectors must be worn. (This, of course, applies to the United Kingdom law.)

“Hearing loss occurs when soundwaves damage the sensory cells within the inner ear, which send information to the brain.

“ Hearing problems after exposure to noise - ringing in the ears or dullness of hearing - are often temporary but become permanent with repeated exposure. Very loud one-off noises, such as gunfire, can also cause permanent hearing loss.”

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