Diwali, ‘the festival of lights’, is one of the biggest festivals India celebrates. The air is filled with aroma of the special sweets, flowers and cheers of families that come together! While all streets and buildings light up, it is also time for deafening sounds. Firecrackers are one major contributor to noise pollution that significantly goes up during this time of the year.
The firecrackers are filled with chemicals that reacts when they are lit. The burning powder within them releases a hot gas that expands within the cracker. Once it reaches the peak point, it results in explosion, causing a blast wave. These blast waves contain high pressure. The noise caused by it is more than 140 dB (way too high!). Noise that is as high as 80 dB itself is enough to cause damage (even when briefly exposed). It can cause:
- Tinnitus – A continuous ringing/ buzzing sound within the ear. It can interfere with the routine of an individual and sometimes make it hard to focus.
- Slight/ transient hearing loss – Most of us must have experienced this when we come out from a concert or really loud club. A few minutes to hours after the exposure, there remains a slight shift in the hearing levels. It recovers on its own when enough rest is given.
- Permanent hearing loss – People sometimes do not recover from the slight shift in their hearing levels. It can range from a slight degree to a profound loss, depending on the extent of damage to the inner ear structures.
- Direct structural damage – A consequence of a daring act or an accident. Very common ones related to ear and hearing are a perforated ear drum or discontinuity of the small bones within the ear cavity. Firecrackers, even simple ones like sprinklers should be handled with caution. It is not advisable to stay too close to the firecracker. The result can be fatal.
Explain the harmful effects of noise to your family, friends and community members. Have them put down rules on the duration and permissible noise levels. Comply with the Government prescribed rules and regulations.
Replace the noisy firecrackers with noiseless ones, like sprinklers or spinner. Diwali is not only about fireworks and crackers! It can also mean a quality time with family & friends, good meal, wonderful decors and of course, nice pictures!
If there are newborns or persons highly sensitive to such noises at home, try creating a safe room that is away from all the noise and distractions. If that is not an option, make sure the windows and doors are tightly shut. Use of ear muffs/ mufflers can attenuate sound to some degree (do not use ear plugs for infants as their ear canals are too fragile).
In case of a casualty, do not wait to get medical aid. Consult with an otolaryngologist (ENT) or Audiologist if it is related to ear and hearing.
There are a number of things that we can indulge in without harming others and ourselves. Be smart and celebrate heartily. Warm Diwali wishes to you all!!