Rising Cacophony Means Trouble for the Ears of Residents in Chaotic Jakarta

By webadmin on 09:56 pm Apr 06, 2010
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Nurfika Osman

What did you say? You fear you might be going deaf?

According to experts, if you live in Jakarta, there is a growing risk you might suffer from hearing problems, considering the extent of noise pollution as the capital embraces its growing density and increased traffic.

Dr. Ronny Suwento, who heads the ear, nose and throat department at the Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, says noise pollution is continuing to worsen, with more cars, more loudspeakers blaring at places of worship and music blasting out of construction sites and malls.

Then there is the music of industry, bruising the ears of factory workers and nearby residents.

“Hearing problems occur gradually, in many cases. Noise pollution does not result in an immediate effect,” Ronny said during a talk show on health on the 68H Broadcasting Network. But public awareness of the hazardous effects of noise is now.

“People never consider that sounds can affect lives,” Ronny said. “Sounds louder than 85 decibels are considered potentially hazardous. Add to that the length of time people are exposed to loud sounds. Both the decibel level and the length of time determine the risks.”

The sound of a normal conversation is 60 decibels, heavy traffic is 85 and a rock concert measures an ear-piercing 115.

“The key is to protect ourselves,” he added, pointing out that teenagers listen to loud music for hours on earphones.

Each year the hospital’s ENT department handles more than 500 patients suffering from ear problems due to the noisy environment. Ronny also said 200 newborn babies a year in Jakarta suffered from hearing problems.

The doctor and his team conducted a survey across 25 streets in Jakarta’s busiest areas ­— including in Senen, Cawang and Tanjung Priok — in 2004 and found that 10.7 percent of people surveyed had hearing problems.

“Now the city has ever-increasing number of cars and more people, which makes the situation even worse,” he said.

Environmental health expert Budi Haryanto, from the University of Indonesia, told the Jakarta Globe that noise pollution had reached an alarming level.

“Car horns are constantly blaring, particularly during traffic jams, and the situation is made worse by the high level of air pollution from vehicle emissions,” Budi said.

Eko, 25, who worked in a noisy automobile plant for 18 months, told the talk show he often heard annoying buzzing sounds.

“Sometimes people need to call my name twice as it is hard for me to hear what they are saying,” he said. “It seems to me their voices are low. My working environment was so noisy that we had to shout to each other to be heard.”

He said protective gear such as ear plugs were not provided at the factory.

When he had his ears checked, the doctor told him there was something wrong with his cochlear duct.

“They advised me to stay away from noisy places as my cochlear duct was slightly damaged,” Eko said. “I do not want to go deaf, so I quit the job.”

Rizky, 26, said he had hearing problems because he loved listening to loud music through earphones.

“I feel like my hearing is decreasing,” Rizky said, adding he had been hearing buzzing sounds more often.

“Sometimes it is painful, like there is a needle sticking in my ears,” Rizky said.

He said a doctor had advised him he needed surgery, but he was not ready. “So far I am just trying to avoid noise,” he said, adding that now he could not hear the bass line in songs.

Ronny said noise also could affect other parts of the body and one’s mood.

“Noise can increase the cortisol hormones, which causes stress, and this can lead to high blood pressure,” he said, adding that loud noise could also trigger headaches.

Ronny said one music player could reach 130 decibels. “People can listen at that level, but only for 15 minutes. After that, they should let their ears rest,” he said, adding that the higher the volume, the shorter the listening time should be.