While there is little doubt about the ill effects of excessive noise on the lives of people, psychologists and psychiatrists are also worried about those who create this cacophony.
“Noise by itself harms people, both those who create it and those who are at the receiving end. A person may claim that he enjoys loud music or is not bothered by traffic or industrial noise. This does not mean that his health is not affected. It has been noted that most people who seem to `enjoy’ loud noise become, at some stage, patients of hypertension and anxiety,” says Dr R K Solanki, head of the psychiatric department, SMS Hospital.
Continuous exposure to noise pollution affects people mentally, be it from vehicles, factories, music bands, firecrackers or even loud voices.
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Noreen Choudhary, a clinical psychologist associated with the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP), says that horns were meant to be used to alert vehicles and prevent accidents.
“However, they have now been turned into communication tools mainly by drivers, who honk them to convey disapproval, displeasure and, in certain cases, joy,” she says. Honking also shows anxiety , frustration and can antagonize other drivers, leading to further violence and road rage, according to Choudhary.
Generally, driving is considered an instrumental activity. It’s carried out rationally once the destination is set. But this rational, instrumental behavior is mostly interrupted by an array of events, which may happen either by other road users or by ourselves or by the traffic situation which can produce intense emotions like anger, aggression or impatience. “Sustained honking or excessive honking can be a manifestation of these emotional states or at times, could be acting out behaviour of hidden aggression,” she says.
Various researches have shown that people are less likely to honk at people or vehicles of `high status’ than at older shabby vehicles. Men were quicker to honk than women and women were more likely to be honked at. “The unnecessary use of horns is a difficult tendency to control as it’s more often used as an amplified articulation of insult than safety,” she says.
“Excessive honking by no means is considered normal. It’s a mere reflection of inner anxiety , frustration and at times an unwarranted display of competitive hostility .It may also be understood as sensation seeking attitude. It does adversely impact physical and psychological health of an individual as this may lead to hearing problems and raised blood pressure. It may increase anxiety level, anger, irritation, insomnia and even depression. It may also affect cognitive abilities like memory, problem solving skills, learning capacity,” city-based psychiatrist Dr Akhilesh Jain says.
He said that people may find it difficult to concentrate on their jobs, make frequent mistakes and tend to forget assigned tasks. It equally affects those who yield to it. Hence traffic rules with teeth and massive awareness campaigns are the need of the hour.