An earful of cacophony

An earful of cacophony

Just take a moment off to hear the noises around you. Be it in the middle of the traffic snarl or having to live in a house closer to main road, you will find that the ones made by vehicles, especially the blaring horns, are the most dominant and irritating.

Honking is a multi-layered problem. A number of drivers honk as a habit and not because they actually need to honk. Some do it due to frustration of getting caught in the traffic jam, and others because they are speeding and want others to give way to them.

Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, M A Saleem, says honking is deep-rooted in our culture. “When a bus approaches a village, the driver honks continuously, so as to alert the people. Likewise, the practice of honking is ingrained in our motorists."

Sounding of horn disturbs tranquillity and creates chaos on the roads, and sudden honking can even lead to accidents. Studies have shown that of late, noise levels in Bangalore have gone far above the permissible limits.

ENT Consultant, Columbia Asia, Sreenivas Murthy says, “Exposure to noise over six hours in the long term can cause hearing loss, besides creating stress, headache and road rage. Ears are sensitive, and traffic noise, particularly honking, is definitely one of the contributors to hearing loss."

The fact that today, many residential areas are close to roads with heavy traffic, compounds the problem with people almost continuously subjected to noise pollution even at night. Besides residents, the others who are badly affected are students, shopkeepers, pedestrians and traffic police. Rashmi, audiologist, Cortie Hearing Hospital, says the hospital gets a number of patients complaining of loss of hearing.

Dr Shankar B Madikeri of Madikeri Superspeciality Hospital, agrees. “Traffic noise is the biggest irritant and ears being a sensitive organ, incessant noise impacts hearing ability.” He suggests that traffic policemen use ear protectors. Saleem says policemen, who are among the worst victims, do not man the traffic for more than seven hours a day, and they mandatorily undergo an annual hearing test.

Studies show that children's learning abilities are adversely affected by noise in and around the classroom. It is not unlawful to honk, except in areas where schools or hospitals are located, which are typically no-honking zones. Saleem says, "We book cases against shrill horns and defective silencers. Between January and May,   4,347 cases were booked for shrill horns and 2,803 cases against defective silencers.”

The only way to dissuade vehicle users from the nagging practice is to create awareness. The "No Horn Mondays" campaign started in Koramangala has led to a decrease in noise pollution by 4.5 per cent. Sapthami P V, who is part of the campaign, says, "Honking is a major noise pollutant in Bangalore and indiscriminate use of horns should be banned. The positive results in Kormangala have led us to extend the "No Horn Mondays" campaign to MG Road and Brigade Road junctions."

A citizens’ initiative with backing from the traffic police and cricketer Rahul Dravid as its brand ambassador, the "I don't Honk campaign" is also catching up. "We have been able to sensitise people to a certain extent and many have started realising that it is not a civilised activity. However, it will take some time before  we see the results,” adds Saleem.

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