Caring for hearing health

On March 3, this year, the global community marked the World Hearing Day. The World Health Organisation (WHO) set aside the day to focus on the importance of safe listening as a means of maintaining good hearing health across the course of life. The theme for this year’s commemoration is: “To Hear for Life, Listen with Care.”

According to experts, many may not consciously pay attention to it and at times neglect it, but our hearing health is quite significant for our overall well-being. A good hearing ability helps one to connect with people – listen, engage, observe while hearing loss may have an adverse impact on one’s quality of life, to the extent that it may affect one’s mental health. When one loses connection with people, loneliness sets in, making one anxious and prone to depression.

Available statistics show that about 1.5bn people representing 20 per cent of the world population live with hearing loss. About 430m have disabling loss. It is expected that the figure could rise to over 700m by 2050. Of this figure, Nigeria is home to about 8.5m people with hearing complications and deafness.

Many factors are responsible for hearing loss in Nigeria. Among them are exposure to loud sounds in public places such as relaxation spots, crusade grounds, stadia, party venues, music shops, industrial hubs, motor parks and worship centres. And because our economy is powered by generators, noises from such infernal machines are also contributory factors to many hearing problems. Then there are construction and quarry sites where explosives are used to blast rocks as well as detonation of crackers during festivities.

Nigerians are noisy by nature. To save them from acquiring deafness and hearing loss, there have been efforts by some states to regulate noise pollution. Notable among them are Lagos state and the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT), Abuja, and lately Ekiti state.

In particular, the Lagos state Government, through the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), took the bull by the horns when it ordered the closure of about 70 churches, 20 mosques, 11 hotels, clubhouses and beer parlours with a view to scaling down the level of noise being generated by such locations.

Consequently, the organisation has been able to reduce the noise level to only about 35 per cent. Its ultimate aim was to achieve a noise-free Lagos by the year 2020.

The noise level in Lagos is currently pegged at 55 decibel during the day in residential areas and only 45 decibel is allowed in such areas at night. In the industrial areas, 90 decibel noise is allowed during the day while the noise rate must not exceed 80 decibel at night in such areas. The organisation also forbids live bands in hotels and any such relaxation spots.

The Abuja Environmental Protection Agency (AEPA) has also pegged the level of noise for residential areas at 45 decibel during night time and 65 decibel in the daytime. For commercial areas, 70 decibel is permitted during the day, while 50 decibel is for night time.

The appropriate authorities in the FCT hit the bull’s eye when they insisted that in other civilised countries of the world, religious houses are not involved in noise pollution, noting that most of them have soundproof facilities in their buildings. They stressed that it is not the level of noise that would make God hear the prayers of His people… as though He is a hard hearer!

Worship centres in particular are purveyors of the noise-making menace. They should save their members from the noise spewed from the state-of-the-art sound systems that could burst their eardrums… all in a bid to accentuate the strength of their messages. It is as if the centres are in competition to render the loudest noise!

We urge government at all levels to emulate states that have put in place measures to mitigate the effects of noise pollution in the country and guarantee safe hearing.

However, we urge Nigerians to take preventive measures at escaping loss of hearing and deafness. Such measures include taking frequent breaks from loud noise to give relief to the ears on an hourly basis or using even headbands/earmuffs to help dampen the noise, avoiding the misuse of cotton buds or bobby pins in the process of cleaning the ears. Exercising on a daily basis also helps to keep the blood flowing to the entire body, including the ears.

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