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July 2012
Silence Of The Nerves
Dr Sudhir Kumar
Sound is an important part of our lives. The very basic act of verbal communication depends on speech, which involves sound. In fact, many animal species depend on sounds to communicate. Sound in the form of music is very pleasing to us and we all enjoy it. Today, music therapy is used for treating various medical problems. consequences on our health.

The problem with sound arises when it is too loud, often called ‘noise’. Noise pollution has several health hazards. Noise has both physical and psychological

Effects Of Noise On Brain
  • Noise has an adverse effect on important functions of the brain such as memory, speech processing and concentration.
  • Noise increases the frequency and severity of headaches in a patient with migraine. It also leads to headache in a normal person.
  • Sudden noise can be cause for increased risk of seizures in some epileptics.
  • Hypertension arising from prolonged exposure to noise puts a person at increased risk of brain stroke.
  • Children exposed to prolonged background noise at school or home may suffer from learning difficulties in relation to concentration and memory. Repeated exposure to noise during early childhood can also affect a child’s acquisition of speech, language and language-related skills such as listening and reading.
Nerve Damage From Noise
Nerve damage in the brain: Sudden loud noise increases the levels of stress and prepares a person for fight or flight response. Consider, for example, a person’s reaction to a sudden and loud honk, when in the midst of crossing a road. The person will come to a halt almost like a reflex and resume walking only when the vehicle or the perceived danger has passed. This happens due to the release of chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals, when in the brain for a short duration, may increase our alertness; however, chronic exposure, as would happen with long-duration noise, leads to damage of nerves in pre-frontal and medial temporal parts of the brain. (These are concerned with concentration and memory.)

Seek Protection
It includes two areas - protecting oneself from noise produced by other sources and reducing the noise produced by self for the safety of others.
  • If possible, move away from noise or noisy surroundings.
  • If you have to live in a noisy area (on account of occupation or so), earplugs or ear protectors may be used.
  • Modify buildings (houses, offices or schools) to include the use of acoustic ceiling tiles, draperies, carpets, curtains and soundabsorbing furniture. Rooms can be made soundproof.
  • Plant bushes and trees around sound-generating sources.
  • Avoid unnecessary honking while driving.
  • Avoid playing loud music at home or while driving.
  • Service your vehicle regularly.
  • Avoid bursting crackers.
  • Let there be community awareness programmes regarding the hazards of noise.
Dr Sudhir Kumar is Senior Consultant Neurologist,Apollo Health City, Hyderabad.

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