Listen up, noise pollution means trouble

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am

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Mainland health authorities hope to raise people's awareness of noise pollution, one of the top three causes of hearing disability in the past few years.

The theme for today's National Ear Care Day is 'decrease noise and protect hearing'.

In 2000, the authorities chose March 3 as the day to campaign for ear health, based on the similarity between the number 3 and the shape of the ear. The World Health Organisation has borrowed the idea this year, making today the first International Day for Ear and Hearing Care. More than 275 million people around the world are deaf or hearing-impaired.

A government circular issued in November to prepare for today's awareness programme said that based on the second national survey of the disabled population, in 2006, hearing disabilities caused by noise had clearly been rising. The circular also cited foreign research showing that 37 per cent of hearing disabilities were related to noise.

The survey found there were 27.8million people with hearing problems on the mainland.

Of those, half had lost partial or complete hearing because of old age, said Dr Bu Xingkuan , director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for the Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Impairment, based in Nanjing .

However, the 2006 survey showed that noise pollution was one of the top three causes of hearing disability over the past few years, whereas in the first such national survey, in 1987, noise was not a prominent cause of hearing impairment.

'Noise pollution has become widespread because of social and industry developments,' Bu said. 'There are many more patients than before whose hearing has been ruined by loud noise. Most of them are young and middle-aged people.'

The groups with a high risk of encountering noise pollution included construction workers, house decorators, miners, staff at entertainment venues, and young people who turn up the volume on musical gadgets to extremely loud levels, he said.

Dr Zhou Xiachu, from Hangzhou First People's Hospital, said two out of 10 of her hearing-impaired patients were noise victims, the Taizhou Business News reported.

Bu said people generally had a poor awareness of noisy conditions and did not take the risk of exposure seriously.

'People know of air or water pollution, but don't realise there is also a kind of noise pollution,' he said.

He said a person spending at least eight hours a day in an environment with noise levels of 80 to 90 decibels would have impaired hearing in two years and lose their hearing in five more years. Normal conversation occurs at 60 decibels. Such impairment cannot be cured.

Noise can also lead to other ailments, such as insomnia, hypertension and digestive diseases.

The mainland has at least three regulations or standards on controlling noise pollution, but Bu said enforcement was not strict.

In 2000, when National Ear Care Day was launched, the authorities targeted deafness caused by the incorrect use of antibiotics. Bu said that type of deafness had declined a lot, thanks to improved drug practices across the country.