June 25, 2021

Noise Pollution: The silent killer

By Kayode ojewale

Sound turns to noise when it is unpleasant or harmful to the ears. Attention is not usually given to noise pollution as compared to air and water pollutions. In some parts of Nigeria, particularly cities and major towns, noise is regarded as an indication that those areas are developed. That an urban area is characterised by its busy day-to-day economic and social activities, does not necessarily translate to a noisy city as believed by many. True, and to a large extent, city life is a noisy.

Some drivers have become addicted to honking their horns needlessly and unnecessarily. They honk to greet or exchange pleasantries; they honk to call someone; they honk to hurry traffic personnel to let them pass; they even honk to hurry vehicles ahead of them at signalised junctions where traffic lights are stationed. But drivers, commercial or private, are duty-bound to be quieter on the road.

Today, honking in Lagos has not only become an environmental issue but also a public health challenge as well. The transportation sector, entertainment industry and predominantly, religious worship centres scattered everywhere are, unarguably, the main sources of noise pollution. In fact, a report in January 2021 had it that 70% of noise pollution in Lagos State is caused by worship centres.

According to the agency in Lagos saddled with the responsibility of protecting the environment, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA, noise pollution has two main effects: Auditory and non-auditory. The auditory effects of noise are deafness and auditory fatigue; the non-auditory effects are annoyance, mental illness, disturbance, stress, loss of work efficiency, interference in speech communication and physical disorder like increase in heartbeats or blood pressure. One may not even suspect or feel any discomfort until serious damage is done to the ears and a hearing test would have to be conducted for confirmation of extent of damage. It happens so because the auditory effect of noise pollution on the body is that it kills slowly and silently.

At a recent sensitisation programme on the dangers of noise pollution organised by LASEPA at Biode Motor Park, Ojota in Lagos, a young woman in her 40s, shared a touching story of how she almost became deaf and the journey to recovering her hearing sense. At the programme, tagged, Sixth Annual Edition of Noiseless Lagos Campaign, Kemi Remi-Dairo, a chef and an event planner, in an emotional voice, caught every participant’s attention with her experience on how she conquered partial deafness.

According to her, it all began some years ago when she was trying to tell the Disk Jockey, DJ, at an entertainment event she managed that he should lower the volume of the sound being produced from a loudspeaker placed very close to one of the invitees’ seat. The guest actually beckoned on Remi-Dairo, being the event manager, to ask that the volume be reduced by the DJ.

While she was right in front of one of the loudspeakers talking to the DJ, the speaker cabinet exploded internally with a loud sound that went deep into her auditory canal and it kept echoing in her ears. She kept experiencing series of overlapping echoes and reverberations in her ears. Days after the incident she could not hear clearly anymore and she had to head for the hospital where tests were recommended. She tried many hearing aids as they were not effective enough because her hearing capacity was lost. It was later confirmed that she was partially deaf and that she must undergo surgery for normalcy to return to her ears.

Story cut short, Remi-Dairo was flown abroad where she had a successful surgery with financial assistance from a non-governmental organisation as the funds raised on her behalf could not foot medical bill for the operation. Today she is an ambassador for Lagos State on Noiseless Lagos Campaign and she also has a hearing foundation where she assists those with hearing impairment. She was lucky to get financial assistance to regain her hearing; not everyone would.

Due to the importance of a noiseless environment, a day is set aside in Lagos where all drivers are not expected to honk. Lagos horn-free day, which comes up on October 15 every year, is an event that creates massive awareness on the need to achieve a noise-free Lagos. The ‘Lagos No Horn Day’ is an initiative that will help serve as reminders to drivers annually on the need to control noise while on the road. Many drivers are still not acquainted with this noise control awareness campaign that comes up yearly.

It is not strange to say that those who live in rural areas tend to live longer than city dwellers because there is less noise in the villages. Constant exposure to noise pollution is the reason life expectancy is short and longevity isn’t guaranteed in urban areas. In fact, most people prefer to retire in the villages in their twilight years. Old folks in the villages do not only live long, they hear clearly and soundly lifelong because their ears are far from noise. This is a pointer to the fact that a noisy environment negatively impacts lifespans.

Noise pollution is easier to control when compared to air and water. Whatever source produces noise was not originallymeant to do so, it was invented to make life easier. Household gadgets, equipment, machines or any other mechanical or electrical devices used outdoors are all designed to bring ease to human activities. However, they have turned to be sources of disturbances due to abuse or misuse.

A noiseless or quiet environment brings full concentration with increased productivity at work, stress relief, good health, happiness, improved intelligence and self-confidence.

Noise production is not natural, it is manmade and as such, it is controllable. We can therefore determine the noise level we want ourselves by the way we live. If everyone knows how injurious and dangerous noise pollution is to our health, then they will take noise control seriously. Neighbors of religious worship centres, club houses or hotels where noise pollution takes place are at liberty to make a formal complaint to LASEPA. Such complaints when treated and eventually resolved will help residents in the neighbourhood live in better health. LASEPA standards for ambient noise levels stipulate 55, 70 and 85 decibels of sound level, respectively, for residential, commercial and industrial areas at day time; and at night time, 45, 60 and 65 decibels in that same order.

A popular noise pollution slogan summarises the dangers inherent in noise thus: noise can fill your ears, and put you in tears. One good way to save and care for our ears indoors or outdoors is to avoid loud sound – noise. Regular hearing test as means of checkup is also recommended for the ears. Everyone should also respect the right of people around when their sound is causing disturbance or creating nuisance. Our society becomes saner when the environment is noiseless. Achieving a noiseless Lagos is a collective responsibility of all residents as health and environmental challenges occasioned by noise pollution will be greatly mitigated. Let’s keep the noise down or else, the noise will keep us down.

  • Ojewale is of the Public Affairsand Enlightenment Department of LASTMA