Effect of noise pollution on hearing in Nigeria

Noise pollution can cause many health problems. Hearing loss and tinnitus are the most common consequences of long-term noise exposure. Noise exposure remains an under-addressed health issue in most developing nations including Nigeria. The rapid industrialisation and lifestyle changes in Nigeria increases the concern over noise exposure and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

Noise-induced hearing loss is a sensory deafness caused by long-term noise exposure. It is the second most common cause of acquired hearing loss after presbycusis in many countries. There are three factors that put one at risk for Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: How loud the noise is, how close one is to the noise and how long one hears or is exposed to the noise. Auditory fatigue is an early symptom of noise-induced hearing loss, and hearing can gradually recover after people leave a noisy environment.

However, if people remain in a noisy environment for a prolonged period, their hearing will be permanently impaired.
Societal changes are increasing the number of people exposed to noise. Hearing loss and tinnitus caused by noise can seriously affect people’s quality of life and lead to huge economic loss. The World Health Organization (2017) estimates that approximately 360 million people worldwide suffer from severe hearing loss and approximately 1.1 billion young people (aged between 12 and 35 years old) face hearing loss due noise exposure.

As millions of Nigerians now commute to work and move around in motor vehicles instead of walking or cycling, as well as the use of personal electricity generators, streets in most Nigerian cities and towns are getting increasingly noisy. Entertainment activities among young Nigerians are drastically different from former generations and often involve loud sound exposures, including music, sport events, party celebrations and other loud hobbies. The increased noise exposure levels of the Nigerian population inevitably raise the questions on its impact on hearing and hearing disorders in Nigeria.

The impact of Noise-Induced hearing loss in Nigeria is probably greater than in some other African countries, considering Nigerian’s increasing population of 213 million and its efforts to develop its economic and to improve living conditions for its people. In addition to financial burdens, the loss of productivity, quality of life and loss of employment, the cost of rehabilitation for hearing-impaired individuals can be unproportional for Nigeria as a developing country.

Noise-induced hearing loss is a preventable and predictable disease. There is no treatment, which can completely reverse the damage caused to one’s hearing by noise; therefore, preventative strategies should be emphasized and taken to alleviate the severity of noise-induced hearing loss. For example, educating the public about hearing health should be adopted to reduce the harm of noise-induced hearing loss, the source and intensity of noise needs to be curbed and harnessed by governments. When people work in factories and or construction sites that generate a lot of noise, employers must monitor noise levels and protect workers’ hearing, for example by providing anti-sound earplugs. Recreation noise is also an important source of noise pollution, hearing education programmes targeting young people and recreational venues should be encouraged because such education can change people’s listening habits and thus protect their hearing. Increased public awareness is needed to decrease the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss in the future.
Aderinola Olopade, Clinical Audiologist Specialised in Vestibular Diagnostics and Tinnitus Therapy CEO Earcare Foundation

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