Kids are not the quietest of creatures.  They chat, laugh, play, fight and make enough noise to drive adults up the wall. This is why many of us would be surprised when told that children too are adversely affected by noise pollution and do much better in peaceful surroundings.

Thus, children, who are exposed to an onslaught of noise at home, in recreational activities and in their surroundings, are as much at risk to noise pollution as adults are in similar conditions.

The environment that youngsters are exposed to these days is full of unnecessary noises. Newborns and young children cannot withdraw or escape, and are captive to the loud sounds all around them. Thus, it is up to the adults to consider the need for hearing conservation, as a child’s ears are particularly vulnerable to noise.

Besides leading to hearing loss, research shows that noise adversely affects language and, cognitive and learning abilities in children.”

It is never too early to become concerned about the effects of noise on children. A research came up with the findings that infants born to mothers living near the Los Angeles airport were lower in birth weights and had greater numbers of birth defects than did infants born to mothers living in quieter areas.

It was believed that it was the annoyance and the fear of the planes that affected the mother’s tissues and fluids, and this in turn affected the environment of the developing foetuses. However, more investigation needs to be done to support a strong relationship between aircraft noise and foetal defects.

A major source of loud sounds that can be damaging to hearing in children happen to be toys that are loud. Children are more exposed to sounds of these than to aircraft and industrial noise. Many toys designed to stimulate children can be dangerously loud. For the infant or child who most typically listens to these toys close to the small, sensitive ears, the risk is even greater.

Just as parents should not give a young child toys with a small piece in order to prevent choking and swallowing, toys that are too loud should also be avoided. While safety laws and consumer protection are unheard of things in Pakistan, it is lamentable that even internationally there is an absence of stringent laws to address the loudness of toys.

Monika Proć/Reshot

Besides leading to hearing loss, research shows that noise adversely affects language and, cognitive and learning abilities in children. According to another research, noise in the early home environment is a strong factor in slowing down language and cognitive development. The instruments of noise around the house can be many — television sets, computers, stereo systems, vacuum cleaners, video games, toys, and even adults shouting unnecessarily. Moreover, it has been observed that today people speak louder than they did in the past.

In her book Top of the Class, Arline Bronzaft studied the lives of older high academic achievers. It turned out that there were quiet times in their homes for children to do their homework, to read and to think. There were no television sets, radio, and stereos blasting in the background. These high academic achievers also reported that their parents disciplined them with stern but moderate voices, not shouts and screams. There was much interaction between parents and the children. It is also found that in noisy homes, there is little interaction between parents and children.

All parents should evaluate the noise levels of their homes, and if they are indeed very noisy, take steps to lower the sound level. Children will most certainly reap benefit from a quieter, more serene home. The busy parents of today spend too little time eating with their children in a quiet setting, but rather enjoy being at some loud fast food place. They need to rethink their dining habits and set aside some quiet mealtimes in which they and their children can eat as well as converse.

In homes that are located near loud noise sources, such as main roads, train tracks, highways and airports, the physical health of children can become affected by these noises. A research paper found a relationship between chronic noise exposure and elevated neuroendocrine and cardiovascular measures.

Noise affects the psychological development of children. The non-auditory effects of noise on school children include deficits in learning, reading and problem solving. A research revealed that children who studied in schools in noisy surroundings were slower in reading than children from schools in more peaceful surroundings. Chronic noise interferes with reading because of deficits in language acquisition.

A research revealed that children who studied in schools in noisy surroundings were slower in reading than children from schools in more peaceful surroundings.”

A child reared in a noisy environment could eventually become inattentive to acoustic cues. The result would be the child’s inability, as he or she tunes out the incoming noises, to discriminate between relevant and irrelevant sounds. This, in turn, might explain why it is difficult for that child to listen attentively in class.

These results should serve as a warning, cautioning parents to lower the decibel levels surrounding a growing child. Despite making a racket themselves, it is clear that youngsters do not like noise. But if children enjoy playing and laughing, and often very loudly, it is because to them it is having fun, not learning or relaxing. Children need quiet rooms in which to study and quiet areas for reading. Children also need quiet times for relaxing and resting.

These days parents are too ambitious and want to turn their children into super achievers, moving them at a frenzied pace from activity to activity. There is a time to play and frolic, and there is a time to slow down and to simply rest. To learn effectively, children need time to rest between lessons. The body needs that time to repair itself and so does the mind. Parents must not only make every effort to keep their homes quieter, but they must also attempt to reduce the level of noise in their communities. The government must also work towards establishing noise laws, particularly regarding vehicular sounds and excessive use of loudspeakers.

This article was originally published in The Review, Dawn

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