WHEN the Lagos State Government came up with a law to curtail noise pollution in the state, some citizens were skeptical and therefore rose to challenge the state on the allegation of biases, particularly between the Christian and the Muslim faith.

Some of the allegations, it was noted arose following the citizens’ suspicion of government’s intention to address the issue, which in some cases had engendered and still engendering disharmony within the Lagos communities.

In defence of the law, the state government had said it became imperative enact and ensure the operation of such laws, to curtail excesses of some, who under the guise of whatever, be religious or social gatherings, had repeatedly, disturbed the peace of the residents, a development said to be averse to a cosmopolitan city of Lagos. Besides, it was also argued that noise pollution was dangerous to human health and as such it must be tamed.

Soon after the enactment of the law, the state through its Ministry of The Environment and another agency, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), swung into action clamping down on some of the centres said to be perpetrating noise and thereby broke the law.

Years down the line, allegations and counter-allegations of bias from each divide continue to rent the air and the state has consistently denied any discrimination tendencies in the way it implements the zero tolerance to noise pollution in the state.

Noise, it is said, is any sound that is unpleasant to the ear. Medically, when it persists, it can damage the ear. Considering the ear organ, it has been said that human ears were designed to process naturally-occurring sounds, and they are beautifully adapted to handle that task. They are able to detect sounds of intensities that vary across many orders of magnitude, and to meaningfully transmit those signals to our brains. But they are not well equipped to deal with the high noise levels that are common today, because such loud sounds occur only rarely in nature.

The ear is a complex structure, processing sound through several stages in the outer, middle, and inner ear. Although the eardrum may sometimes be ruptured by severe noise (acoustic trauma) or pressure changes, the part that is most vulnerable to damage by noise lies more deeply, in the inner ear, where the final processing takes place before the sound is converted into nerve impulses that are transmitted to the brain.

The prominent structure in the inner ear is the spiral-shaped chochlea, which is a fluid-filled tube lined with delicate, microscopic hair cells that pick up the vibrations caused by sound waves. When they are overworked by too much exposure to loud sounds, the hair cells become metabolically exhausted and can temporarily lose their function. Fortunately, they are able to recover from the auditory fatigue caused by too much noise, but if overexposure is too long or too frequent, they can’t cope, and they die. There is no pain or bleeding when this occurs.

There are about 15,000 of these hair cells in the chochlea, and when one dies, it is irreplaceable, and that part of your hearing sensitivity is gone forever.

You can think of the hair cells like individual blades of grass in a section of lawn. You can walk across the lawn, stepping on the blades of grass, and they will recover, but if many people continually walk across the same area, the grass will become sparse and may eventually disappear as a path is worn. That is analogous to what happens to hair cells when the “traffic” from noise is too heavy or too frequent.

Hair cells don’t “toughen up” with exposure to high noise levels and become less vulnerable to damage. The inner ear is not a muscle, which strengthens with use, but a delicate instrument, relying on the proper functioning of its individual parts in order to work. If you want to keep your hearing in the best condition, be kind to your ears, and protect them from hearing damage caused by noise abuse.

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