THERE’S one place heavy traffic can get you these days––the road to impaired hearing.

According to a UST Center for Audiological Sciences study, long exposure to noise in busy metropolitan roads can lessen hearing sensitivity.

EDSA-Taft in Pasay, Farmers-Cubao and GMA-Kamuning in Quezon City, Pedro Gil Street in Manila, Ayala Avenue in Makati, and Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong were identified as the noisiest areas in Metro Manila, based on Metro Manila Development Authority’s recommendation. It was found out that staying for more than two hours in these roads could harm hearing.

The study, made in a seven-day period by a team of four UST audiologists and an eye, ear, nose, and throat doctor, used a sound-level-meter to measure the noise. Results were then recorded using a noise map to indicate noise decibels in the selected areas for three days, from the peak hours of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

EDSA-Taft Avenue in Pasay topped the noisiest streets-in-the-morning list with 105.5 decibels followed by GMA-Kamuning (102.9 decibels), Shaw Boulevard (101.1 decibels), Farmers-Cubao (99.8 decibels), Ayala Avenue (97.9 decibels), and Pedro Gil St. (97.2 decibels).

“A person can be exposed to 90 decibels for eight hours. Every addition of five decibels would cut the allowable exposure time into two,” Dr. Norberto Martinez, director of UST Center for Audiological Sciences, told the Varsitarian.

The study was based on the Permissible Noise Exposure Level–Occupational Health and Safety Standards set by the Department of Labor and Employment. Based on the standard exposure level, a person can be exposed to 105 decibels for only one hour.

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“Otherwise, it would be detrimental to hearing,” Martinez explained.

Normal breathing and whisper have sound intensities of 10 and 30 decibels respectively, while band concerts and ambulance siren give off 120 decibels.

At noon, Ayala Avenue was noisiest with 102.2 decibels, followed by Farmers-Cubao (102.1 decibels), GMA-Kamuning (101.6 decibels), Shaw Boulevard (101.5 decibels), Pedro Gil (100.8 decibels), and EDSA-Taft (99.5 decibels).

In the afternoon, Pedro Gil emerged the noisiest with 103.2 decibels, then Shaw Boulevard (101.9 decibels), Farmers-Cubao (101.9 decibels), EDSA-Taft (101.6 decibels), Ayala Avenue (101.2 decibels), and GMA-Kamuning (101.1 decibels).

The noise, according to the study, was caused by diesel-engine vehicles or motorcycles, busy intersections, drivers blowing their horns, and establishments like videoke bars.

“Commuters passing by these noisy streets for a few minutes a day would not be greatly affected,” Martinez said. “But people working in these places for eight hours or more, like traffic enforcers, street vendors, or nearby office personnel, may suffer hearing problems.”

Martinez said the regulations based on the Permissible Noise Exposure Level are not being implemented. Aside from taking smoke-belching vehicles out of the road, vehicles with noisy engines, an indicator of problems, should be penalized. Also, drivers of buses that use loud air horns should be reprimanded.

Hearing ‘aide’

Martinez suggested that employees exposed to loud noise should undergo hearing tests, while new employees should be given pre-employment hearing exams to track their hearing health. Sound proofing offices is also recommended.

“Employees already having hearing problems should be reassigned to other areas for a rest period to let their ears recover,” he added. “If not, hearing problems could be permanent.”

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Indications of hearing problems include hearing muffing or ringing sounds. People also tend to speak louder when there is hearing loss or discomfort.

For traffic enforcers and others openly exposed to traffic noise, Martinez advised the use of ear plugs or ear muffs, since using cotton as an ear plug is inadequate.

Martinez also discouraged the practice of plugging loud music through earphone to rid of background noise because it is harmful to hearing.

Hearing problems, meanwhile, can later affect general health, Martinez said.

“Noise pollution not only affects the ears, but can lead to other problems like high blood pressure, gastrointestinal discomfort, and many others,” he said.

“A person under loud-noise exposure experiences stress and the health effects that follow. Restlessness due to noise can make a person irritable, increasing high blood pressure and stomach acidity,” Martinez explained.

Since traffic noise in bustling cities is inevitable, it is advisable to at least avoid busy roads and intersections during rush hours. It saves not only precious time, but also hearing and health. Kingbherly L. Li

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