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Decibels Around Us
« on: July 31, 2008, 11:33:22 PM »
Decibels Around Us
By A.M.B. Apalisok


      One’s memory of pain is indeed short.  One of my worst experiences of ear-shattering decibels is now funny in hindsight.  It was in a public transport ride from Cebu City to Talisay City where the sound system had twitters and woofers, one had to gasp for air.   

      Cebu City had banned these sounds; Talisay at the time hadn’t.  So jeepney drivers, depending on the direction of the trip, either activated or deactivated their music at the boundary of the two cities.   

      The combination of decibels, heat, and seating discomfort (a 12-seater always seat 14) made me feel faint.  I asked that the volume be lowered.  The shouted answer:  It’s because you’re already old.  That was one time when I wished I had a gun.  And no, it wasn’t because of the driver’s assessment of my age.         

      The measure of sound is in decibels.  The rustling of leaves, calming and pleasant, is between 25 to 30 decibels. Human conversation is between the tolerable 45 decibels to the intolerable 55 decibels.  Silence is pegged at zero to 20 decibels.

      The level of sound in the environment has a direct effect on one’s physical and psychological health, yet the pervasive, intrusive and unwanted sounds of modern living are the most overlooked pollutants on earth.   

      Any sound from the loudest of human conversations at 55 decibels can annoy, disturb sleep, and cause aggressive behavior.  At 65 decibels, the outcome is hypertension.  At 75 decibels, sound can already lead to high stress, increased heart rates, and possible hearing loss.   

      To get an idea of the unhealthy level of 75 decibels, the sound of a roadworthy passenger car is from 60 to 80 decibels.  Disco music is from 85 to 105 decibels while the noisiest of all modern-day symbols, the jet airplane, has a decibel level of 150 to 160.

      It’s the worst and most hateful invention of all, a college chum declared.  Our topic was home videokes that seem to be a must-have of an average household.  Who cares if they sing their hearts out off- key, but do they have to sing at a volume heard throughout the block?  I understood her disgust.  I’ve had near-scrapes because of the noise that people inflict.  In other words, I’ve shown aggressive behavior due to intolerable noise levels.

      I can’t rest in my own home if all I hear throughout the day is your loud singing, I once told a next-door condo neighbor in Manila.  Her incessant singing was paired by the daily verbal barrage of a wife in the unit directly below ours.  I was forced to exercise my right to sanity.   

      The frustrated singer whose ambition was to frustrate her neighbors didn’t even listen to my suggestion that she at least close her windows to muffle the sound of her singing.  But nothing beats a friendly neighbor who went to the condo’s management to file a formal complaint.   

      One day the singer opened her door to two security guards.  There my story ended.  There was, of course, nothing I could do with the lady on the floor below.  But at least her incessant verbal war was at a tolerable decibel.     

      In Cebu City, in this lower middle-class residential enclave a good three kilometers away from the public transport route, home videokes are just as ubiquitous, punctuated by blaring TVs and the honking of private cars and their irritating alarms.  There’s no escaping the din, but at least these are neighbors one can talk with.  And boy, had I talked often.     

      Noisy malls and dining places?  I cope by going to malls only when extremely necessary and avoid the latter outright.   

      Doubtless comparing is unfair, but I feel sentimental when I think about how more pleasant it is to shop in other countries outside of my own.  There one feels some kind of dignified treatment.  And there one isn’t jarred with screaming sound systems nor pestered with unavailable loose change by cashiers.   Can it be true, then, that the more backward a country is, the noisier it is?           

      We may have overlooked noise pollution either because we’ve been blinded by the deafening sounds we make or we’ve become deaf that we can’t see the damage. 

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