I’m going to structure this post in an FAQ format.

Q: We never had a problem with acoustics when we were growing up. Despite not having acoustically treated classrooms, we heard our teachers just fine.  Why worry about classroom acoustics now?

Educational Institutes earlier did not have a few issues that they face now. Here’s what’s changed:

  • Diminishing Playgrounds: The school I studied in had place for football, basketball, tennis, garden, swings for children, a huge auditorium, and even a mini-zoo. The classrooms were in a central building, separated by the main roads by these sports areas, and the school as such was located in a residential area. In contrast, these days, with land prices shooting through the roof, there are plenty of schools in Bangalore with no playgrounds, let alone garden spaces. They either just don’t have one, or they use a municipal ground nearby as their own. I’ve taught in a 30ft long class, at the end of which was 4 ft of external corridor, and then (gasp!) the main road. With the last benchers being 4 feet away from traffic, and 30 ft away from the voice of their teacher, I wonder what they managed to learn. They strained their ears all day above the muffling effect of traffic noise.
  • Road Traffic Noise: The above problem is compounded by the fact that roads are no longer quiet. There is more traffic, more honking, and louder horns than ever.
  • Air Traffic Noise: If anything, air traffic has increased in the 20-odd year span that has passed since I went to high school. All the big cities, some of the smaller cities have all got airports. I’ve sat in the most beautiful lung space in Bangalore – the Lalbagh – and watched 15 flights go above my head in one hour. It’s a bigger problem than we think.
  • Changing Interiors Trends:  These days, the interiors are all sleek, with vitrified tiles commonly in use,  with tables and chairs also having sleeker, smoother finishes. These surfaces reflect much more than materials that were used in older buildings.

Q: So what problems (that I need to worry about) do these building environments cause?

Reverberation:  This is a double edged sword. Too much of it, and the room sounds forever noisy, noise just doesn’t die down, the mood is abuzz, instead of calm. The room makes some voices stand out more than others.  Too little of reverberation, and the room sounds dead. Everyone tends to strain to speak louder.  In both cases, at least the teacher ends up with a raspy voice at the end of the day. It doesn’t just stop with throat irritation ( that persists even during non-teaching hours).  When you’re in a chaotic environment, your heart rate’s always higher. This means your body doesn’t feel calm. You lose quality of life right there, let’s not even talk about after-hours fatigue. Teaching ceases to be enjoyable right then.

Poor audibility : Teachers often have to shout to be heard over the ambient background noise. This volume is often too loud for the front benchers, and usually not enough for the back benchers – leading them to be distracted and disengaged. Teachers are all too familiar with the buzz of conversation in the back benches, when they’re distracted.

Extra boominess : In the same room, some pitches sound very loud, and some pitches sound very soft.  Male teachers with low pitched voices will often find that, there are sometimes spots in the room where their voice sounds too loud, or faint.

Low speech intelligibility: You hear the teacher’s voice booming around you, but you can’t make out the words very clearly. There’s enough research out there for you to look up, and that’ll make you realize that there are schools where students miss out on close to 50% of the speech.  There’s a nervous irritability that sets in when students are not able to understand despite their focus.

Q: This is tricky ground. You could easily be talking through your hat. Is there any way to know for sure that learning is impeded by poor acoustics? Is there proof?

It is true that the concentration ability of all students is not the same – there are always those who concentrate well, and those who get distracted easily. However, organized studies have been conducted – some for as long as three years – to obtain unbiased proof of the effect of bad acoustics on learning – all other factors remaining the same. There is a genuine link because the act of ignoring the existence of a noise source also uses up cognitive power.  A few if them are listed below for those interested. I will not go into explaining what each one says, because these only substantiate what I’m saying.

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/487721.stm : This study by the BBC conducted as early as 1999 was conducted for nearly three years.
  2. http://download.contentx.ch/160/new%20zeeland.pdf : This study speaks of vocal strain,  classroom acoustics, and substantiates it with measurements conducted before and after acoustical treatment.
  3. http://www.centerforgreenschools.org/docs/acoustical-barriers-to-learning.pdf
  4. http://www.speechandhearing.ca/en/consumer-info/children/classroom-acoustics/classroom-acoustics-studies-materials-and-resources : This last one contains a set of articles regarding current standards recommendations.

Q: How can acoustical treatment help?

In places where the spoken word is the main purpose, acoustical treatment should be considered as important as other aspects of building design. But to keep things short, the improved hearing experience will surely bring benefits – some obvious, and some intangible but important nevertheless.

  • Less vocal and physical strain, more quality of life for teachers.
  • Better comprehension, less disengagement, more active participation
  • Better behaviour due to less frustration. The social effect is the most important, and the least readily tangible.

Q: I don’t understand acoustics. What does a 10dB loss mean? Can I hear some examples please?

The links below have sound samples that tell you what some classrooms sound like, and what they should sound like.

A wonderful talk by Prof. Trevor Cox, speaking of what just a 10 dB reduction in noise levels can do for your understanding.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbJPiuS7TxA&feature=relmfu]

Another talk by Julian Treasure, discussing the academic, physiological, and social implications of better acoustics in classrooms.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIEsAymNxC0&feature=plcp]

The cost implications of treating a room is surely smaller than the huge profits that many schools in Bangalore rake in. The benefits are huge. I will post another article on the kind of treatment required for speech enhancement. For now I hope people reading this are at least aware that acoustical treatment can significantly enhance the listening experience at places that exist entirely for this purpose.

A quiet environment allows the mind to freely explore ideas, thoughts, and form quirky connections in the head. A noisy environment disturbs not only the mind, but also the body.

There is one rather disturbing aspect of road noise on the rise. It is that the soundscape in India has drastically changed in the last ten years alone, never mind my growing years. Post liberalization, and 10 years post that, with increasing affluence,  there are plenty of SUVs on the road. While engines have grown quieter (and dangerously so – I can’t hear cars creep up behind me on the road!),  horns have grown increasingly louder. It is not unusual to hear an SUV honk at 110 dB to a guy standing just 2 feet away.  Yes, on some roads in India,  cattle, people, cyclists, SUVs still go shoulder to shoulder.  Just to give you an idea of how loud 110dB can be, imagine standing next to a jet engine, or in a loud discotheque. Of course, imagine that you stood only for 2 seconds, because that’s how long the horn lasts. But I must confess, at my seemingly young age, my ears ring for 5 seconds after I experience such inconsiderate honking.  To make matters worse, there are articles like this :  http://jalopnik.com/5896859/audi-is-designing-extra-loud-horns-for-india

Now this rant is entirely based on that article I read. I am assuming it is true. I am hardly feeling rational and sane right now, but I’ll attempt to be. So I understand the need for a foreign automobile company to design mechanically sturdier horns for the Indian scenario, given that lane discipline is rare and horns are a necessity here. But why “louder” horns?. I think the engineers who came up with this thought are shortsighted, to say the least.  I really wish to go honking near their homes with this very horn they’ve designed. 

Someday in the not-so- distant future. I will move a petition, with the eventual hope of seeing it implemented as a legislation – to force automobile manufacturers to have two different volumes for horns built in. Just like high beam and low beam for lights. Shouldn’t be difficult for them to do this, and it would make our cities that much quieter. All this hullabaloo wouldn’t be necessary if temporary deafness was an immediate effect. The sad truth is, it only sets in later.

What does NIHD mean to you?

I’ve heard varied answers for this, with some people even guessing that it was a new kind of battery for cameras. I’m of course, talking about Noise Induced Hearing Deficiency. Given how commonplace it is now, it is surprising that nobody really knows about it. It is not surprising, it is actually alarming. The only explanation to this is that any form of deafness earlier was attributed to age, or accidents.  The truth is, NIHD is tragic. It is the most easily avoidable kind of occupational injury. Situations causing NIHD are much more rampant now.  This blog discusses NIHD in the Indian context, and how we owe it to ourselves to take the simple precautions that will help us keep our hearing mechanism healthy.

Here goes:

What is NIHD, and why should I give it any thought? 

Imagine not being able to hear half the consonants. “Steve, watch out for that pipe” sounds like ” ee, o ou o aa i “. You haven’t lost your hearing yet. But there’s no quality of life if there’s no quality of conversation. That’s what a person with NIHD will go through in their alarmingly near future.

Imagine sitting around with your best friends at your local cafe, sipping coffee, watching and hearing everyone talk and laugh, and not quite be able to make out the words. You hear sounds, but they don’t sound like the words you know.

 It is likely that you will spend this evening and all such evenings further on just sitting around, not really being a part of the conversations.  There are already enough teenagers in the US, who’ve battered their delicate hearing mechanism with abnormally loud music for hours on end, and who now cannot hear their friend whisper a remark into their ear while sitting in class.

Hearing loss affects the high frequency range of your hearing, and many consonants of our alphabet lie within that.  Here is a wonderful youtube video that explains more.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_KS-MB0jTU]

The solution?

  • The previous post “Sound – the Fourth Dimension” lists steps you can take to make your hearing sharper.
  • The simplest solution is to use ear plugs whenever you are unavoidably facing loud noise for long amounts of time. 

The hearing mechanism is so delicate, that the wonder of it deserves another post  – coming up soon! I hope you will be left with a feeling of awe at the end of it. :).  Meanwhile, Steve, watch out for that little pipe in your ear.  Use ear plugs.

To understand what your pair of ears really mean in your life, just walk around half an hour with your ears closed. Experience how distant it makes you feel from the environment around you. The soundscape is such an integral part of the cognitive memory of a place in time, that without it, things just don’t feel normal anymore.

I don’t know if there is an evolutionary reason as to why our ears are much more sensitive than our eyes – our eyes see only one octave of the spectrum of light, but our ears can hear 10! We’re talking about 10-12 zeroes after a number – loudness levels of the the tiniest flutter of a leaf, to that of the roaring engines of a jet plane.

What does that mean to you? It means cognition, connectedness with your planet. This is directly about how much of the universe you are able to percieve. 

There is something about feeling connected and alert, that keeps many harms at bay. Disconnectedness leads to depression and poor performance, while feeling connected and alert also makes you  feel calm, vibrant, and alive!

In this day and age, our ears are subject to much more noise than there ever was. Imagine how quiet and natural sounding the pre-industrialization days must’ve been. Let’s not go so far back in time – in India, the pre-liberalization days were also reasonably quiet, except near the railway lines. In the last 10 years alone, so many more cars, bikes, trucks and autos have hit the road, that our current soundscape is “noisy” most of the time. We don’t realize how much, because our brains are using up precious energy to overcome that noise and pretend it doesn;t exist, so that they can concentrate on other things that need our cognitive attention. This means that we’re not conscious of the environment anymore. We’re insulating our attention to an inner space where other thoughts exist. This tends to move us towards a mechanical state of mind, which means that in the absence of some motivational excitement, we reach a state where deep down we’re really happy to just move away from that source of sound. Needless to say, this disconnected state of mind does not foster creativity and spontaneous ideas.

That doesn’t sound like a very critical problem, really. 

There is a bigger danger than being generally disoriented and unproductive. Noise Induced Hearing Loss is so commonplace now, that protecting your hearing is not optional anymore. NIHD needs a separate post, so in this post we’ll talk about what you can do to keep your hearing happy.

What Can I Do?

There are things we can do to make things easy for our brains, and to protect that delicate, and highly intricate mechanism of hearing.

– Move away from sources of noise as much as you can. Thoughts will flow more freely in quieter spaces.
– Buy a pair of earplugs – they help to reduce the overall impact on your system.
-Keep your earphones/headphones on in noisy environments.
– Don’t listen to really loud music, for long hours., else by the time some of you reach marriagable age, you will not be able to hear the sweet nothings your spouse whispers into your ears .This is more likely to happen than you think.
-Listen to natural sounds as much as you can – chirps, tweets, waterfalls, waves. These sounds have elevated and energized our hearts and minds for thousands of years now. They sometimes bring back that lost connectedness with our environment.
– Listen to music that has genuine talent. Listen to it more often than you plan/manage to. Make time for this. Nothing like it to charge you up.
– Listen to music at volumes that existed before amplification happened. If someone was to sing in front of you, with no mic, how would it sound?
-Listen to yourself. Spend time listening to the sound of your breathing. At the end of a day of battering your hearing with sound and noise (from traffic, television, podcasts), listening to gentle breathing is the best gift you can give yourself. This sharpens your hearing skills, soothes your frayed nerves, elevates your state of mind, relaxes and energizes you.

Anytime you’re feeling disconnected, move to a pleasant soundscape and stay still for sometime. It will give you back those dimensions one by one.

This is part 3 of a multi-part article dealing with common sources of noise in the urban environment.  Part 1 talks about Community Noise, and Part 2 talks about Road Traffic Noise. 

Now this may raise eyebrows, because a lot of us go to quiet, plush offices that don’t sound sharp or reverberant. The carpets provide absorption for both, footfalls and some amount of reverberation. Offices are supposed to be quiet anyways – if you’re talking, your boss won’t like it too much.  But there are enough scenarios in Bangalore alone, listed below. Again, each of these are what I have personally experienced.

  • Fancy glass exteriors, with inaccurate glazing specification, let in road noise and vibrations.
  • Whirring printers and coffee machines.
  • Irritating hum of the air conditioning system.  I know of an office space where the ventilation duct above the false ceiling turned into a resonator of sorts, and sitting below that was like sitting below a jet engine.
  • Porous meeting rooms.  Privacy issues are huge. I know of a time when improper glazing made someone’s appraisal discussion public.
  • Some job profiles revolve around phone calls. The others nearby could do with some quietness for 8 long hours.
  • Creaky revolving doors.
  • Typing noise
  • Machine hum. I once sat next to the only server test bed in our office, and experienced crazy amounts of heat and noise.
  • Lift noise. This is a problem in hospitals too. My little one was constantly jolted out of her sleep each time the lift was called up.
  • Highly reverberant meeting rooms. Speech intelligibility issues, especially during conference calls where you can’t lip read.
  • Last but not the least, aircraft noise that makes boardroom windows rattle. This is a case at hand. In business hotels, this can be a big factor affecting business – corporates don’t want to rent boardrooms that have deafening noise coming  through the window, muffling speech during conferences.

All said and done, offices are among the quieter spaces we experience, and only specific issues like the ones listed above are what we acousticians constantly address.  Speech privacy and speech intelligibility are the main aspects here. All these issues are easily solvable, even in retrofit cases.

 This is part 2 of a multi-part article that lists out common noise sources and their effects on the quality of our lives.  Part 1 deals with community noise. 

Road Noise particularly deserves a separate blog post. This is the most common problem faced by independent houses, hospitals, auditoria,  independant small business offices, and even some large corporate offices in Bangalore.

Scene 1: Cities grow. When people bought plots and built houses, they were located away from the noisy, bustling city center and business districts, because land was always cheaper farther off. There WAS no noise then to take care of. Once the cities grew around there, suddenly small roads became main roads. Now windows rattle when trucks lumber along, and cars drown out conversations unless you shut out ventilation. Bangaloreans now have to roll up their car windows on noisy, arterial roads (such as J. C. Road) if they want to hear any conversation or radio. At the minimum, a person drives for upwards of an hour or two each day to commute. This city is facing unprecedented growth, and therefore there’s ample construction and road traffic noise.

Scene 2:  Vehicle Noise. Another example. I have the luxury of having Sir C. V. Raman’s property right next to my house. It’s a huge property, with much of the place covered with trees, and a very small construction on one end of it. My house is separated from the road by nearly 200 ft of this gap with tree covering. Yet, I feel the need to close the shutters when I’m in the hall, to hear conversation. I shudder to think how I’d be up the wall with noise if there wasn’t this much of gap. The horns are loud enough to irritate when one is quietly working or reading.  While Bangalore is now seeing a lot of high rise buildings,  there’s a huge amount of residences that are not so huge, and these small clusters of apartments and independent houses are directly built next to a main road or two.

Scene 3: Structural Vibrations:  I knew someone whose house was located 50 ft from the national highway.  Now that might sound like wierd planning, but national highways do pass through cities, and there’s bound to be residences on some stretch of it inside the city.  The planners did their bit and built a 30ft wide park all along the road, and then a small 20ft wide service road in front of the houses.  Add to this, interstate trucks and lorries are not allowed inside city limits for most of the day – they were let in only during select entry hours.  Secure enough? This person was rattled awake every morning at 4 a.m, when trucks were allowed to pass and his window panes would rattle.  The low rumble would dance on his chest and make him hypertensive. He’d toss and turn, and blame it on the anxiety he felt.

Scene 4: Ultra Loud Horns from SUVs. This is a rather disturbing trend on the rise. It is not unusual to hear an SUV honk at 110 dB to a guy standing just 2 feet away.  That’s as loud as a jet engine, or a discotheque. That can blast in your ears even if you are a good  50 feet away, and  if you’re ears are fatigued, they can ring for 5 seconds after such a honk.  This situation didn’t exist till even 5 years back, when SUVs were not plentiful on the roads. If you live next to a noisy road, the damage these loud horns can cause in the long run are not limited to Auditory fatigue or a temporary shift in the threshold of hearing.  The point here is that this is now a huge factor that  Acoustical Consultants take into consideration while designing sound spaces, because at 11odB, this is rather obtrusive.  The fact is that such a level of loudness is unnecessary within city limits, where you can’t be zipping at the speed of light. You have to move at mob speed, and a softer horn , even at 85-90 dB will be alot easier on our ears. More on this in another article.

For now, these are are the common scenarios in today’s cityscape.

The next article deals with noise in office spaces here. 

These two words have more than a few letters in common, contrary to what some architects probably believe. And no, they need not be conceptual antonyms of each other

The variety of finishes available these days would leave most interior designers with no room for complaint. Choose from vinyl, fabric, leather, or just good old perforated gyp or wood. There’re also products that are actually transparent, and can be used on glass. The only constraint is usually related to how dust free a place really is. I can provide case studies of how we’ve worked with the concepts provided by the interior designers and architects, and provided  unobtrusive treatment that maintains the look and feel they have in mind for the space.  Here’s one case study:

A spa located on top of a mall, on a noisy road, with 3 mosques nearby, and a noisy AC chiller embedded into the structure needed a quiet, relaxed environment within, and a very open  and spacious look and feel. This meant we could not wall out the loudspeakers of the mosques. We had to work with glass, so that the view of the expansive sky is maintained, but the sound from the traffic below, or the mosques (200 meters away) does not come in.  We provided glazing specification strong enough to drown out the measured amount of noise, and worked with the structural engineers to ensure that the span is adequately supported. The thickness of the glass was enough to block out most frequencies, but not enough to block out the amplified, low frequencies of male voices singing out prayers 5 times a day, almost simultaneously from 3 mosques. The solution was to provide a torture path between glass panels all along the edge of the building. The torture path for the sound was designed according to the wavelength of the lowest frequency we needed to block.  This account does not provide the other site requirements and designs – the point is to illustrate that the look and feel was not tampered with, despite walling being the easiest option.

Similarly, there are enough other projects, where one of the primary things we ascertain from the architects/interior designers are the finishes they have in mind, and we design our acoustical treatment in accordance with those.  Acoustical treatment, unlike little girls, must be heard, not seen. 🙂

Unfortunately, there’s only one design a building is going to have, and it has to include everyone’s conveniences and dreams – the client’s, the architect’s, the HVAC, electrical and plumbing people, and last but not the least, the acoustic consultant’s.  The correct interpretation of  ideas into engineering requirements, and their faithful implementation will form the bridge between dreams and conveniences. This is why it is vital to call in your acoustical consultant sooner – during the design phase. The laws of physics won’t change at the last minute, during the commissioning, and the acoustical consultant will usually have no good news to give you if you bring them in just before the inauguration party.

Walls are walls, glass is glass, a rose is a rose, etc…And one usually can’t take the place of another in the general scheme of things. A large part of the value of an acoustical consultant lies in their ability to prevent a problem before it occurs.  This effort and expertise may go entirely unnoticed, because good sound is taken for granted, just like air to breathe. One does not notice the acoustical environment unless it is disturbing. 🙂 That’s a job hazard acousticians live with.  🙂

The average human being faces decent amounts of exposure to these sounds. However the worst affected are our poor construction workers. The concrete mixers, carpenters, the ceramic tile cutters, the welders, the girls at the garment factory with the noisy sewing machines, stitching all day, the autorickshaw guys, facing 97 dB  from their own vehicles and that of others, etc. There are masonry workers who have to demolish first, who sometimes have to hammer away at tiles and concrete till something gives way becomes rubble. There are also the street hawkers and vendors, for whom acoustics is justifiably less of a concern than earning their daily bread.

In the Indian context, these guys don’t even have a voice. No norms exist to mandate the use of earmuffs.  No OSHA, no NIOSH to treat them as human beings.  We move to another room when there’s work going on in our house. Where can they go?
Us?

The Great Indian Middle Class is psychologically isolated from the lot of people mentioned above.  So coming back to the problems ‘we’ face, one might debate that none of these are really continuous. There is a time in the day when all these noises stop and silence reigns. People get their shut-eye then and all is well in the morning. It’s just that the physical effects of noise exposure will not wait till night time to show their effect on you.  The changes happen in real time. Not in an obvious fashion.

And what have we to lose?

It’s a question of attributing effects to the right cause. The constant whirring of the office printer might be irritating us, but we attribute irritation to  seemingly more ‘obvious’ causes.  The regular rattle outside our houses seems noisy,  but nothing our concentration cannot surmount. Children are under immense pressure to have the kind of concentration yogis had thousands of years ago.  A child is considered incompetent if he/she merely complains about the noise.  This is what separates the toppers from the averagers.  Now, the social implications are many, so we will not go into those. The masses in India now face flyovers that just came up near their window on the 2nd floor. After a certain age, most people assume that some amount of hearing loss is inevitable, and is really a sign of old age, that’s all.

Also, old age is a very commonplace thing in India. The current working class clearly rules out the impact noise might have on their later years.  Hasn’t nearly every household got at least one person above the age of 80, with all faculties intact? Yes,  they do.  But  by the time the present working class grows that old, they’d have faced continuous noise for 60 years.  The present crop of grandparents past 80 never had to face that much noise.

It is a question of how many more years of quality hearing you ‘might have had’.  I use the past tense because this question is usually asked in retrospect.  Time to change that now.

This is a multi-part article, that deals with individual scenarios of noise we face in our daily lives. I will only mention cases that I have experienced personally, and that I think can easily be solved with some expert technical advice.

The point I am making in this post, is about the irritating effect of daily whirrings and rumblings that we hear in the soundscapes surrounding us, and that these bring down the quality of our life by just that little much.  It could show up as general annoyance, or that slight headachy feeling, or general distractedness. Things can be done to fix those, but the starting point is to take that decision to do something to mitigate the irritation. Many of us don’t even think of these sources as causes of irritation. But let me not speak for anyone else.

Some common situations to start with, pertinent to the Indian scenario.

Community Spaces

 Earlier, a park came to my mind when I thought of community spaces. These days, it is usually a mall or a shopping complex. With those mushrooming in Bangalore, the issue most of them face is of speech intelligibility due to sleek interior finishes  (glass walls and doors, and gypsum ceilings).  The issue usually pops  up when there are public events in the open spaces on each floor of the malls. While the voice of the events guys is heard booming all over the mall, it is difficult to comprehend what they say because their voice is drowned out in multiple echoes. The generally reverberant environment is also heard in the often chaotic food court – the chaos just doesn’t die down.  There are many ways to provide some absorption without tearing down the gypsum or covering the glass. While nobody expects a mall to be a quiet place, annoyance can be a real physical entity.

Dog barking it’s head off: The dog next door had throat cancer. It had the most painful and harsh bark. And it used to bark non-stop to try and ease the pain in its throat. While we cursed it then, we all felt rather upset after we found out why it barked so much. The annoyance, the edginess, the frayed nerves, the irritability – all happened to us.

Construction noise: This is what one faces in growing cities.  For example, We moved into our house. Then our next door neighbour started constructing his house. Two years of structural noise when they were hammering away at their walls, and then irritating, high-pitched, grating noise while cutting tiles for a few months.

Children Playing Outside: In the Indian scenario, this could happen anywhere.  Especially with the dwindling number of parks, children hoot and play anywhere they can  – apartment corridors resound with and amplify the sharp clap of a plastic ball hitting a wooden/plastic cricket bat. I used to live in an apartment where the space for playing was limited to one badminton court, and a long corridor between two long rows of apartments. You won’t find a middle class Indian household that does not open their windows ( – it is almost a morning ritual, closed windows are considered a sign of disease), and the houses on the ground floor did too. As children, it was strange  for us to see adults coming out of these houses asking us to play elsewhere, and stop disturbing them, but things took a nasty turn when someone came out weeping – her migraine headache had just started because of the noise, and there was no place for her to go.

Neighbourhood Noise: Most Indians like to keep their windows open. Things are a little quieter in the apartments , with noise only on the lower floors close to where children play, or cars move.  However, a lot depends  on how your apartment is built.  As I write this, I can hear

  • A lady with an extremely shrill voice talking for the last half hour
  • Continuous talk  of a father playing cricket with his 4 year old son downstairs
  • The TV in the next room
  • Traffic Noise – horns, autorickshaws
  • Children singing the afternoon prayer in the college a 100 feet away.

Train Lines

These days, with real estate prices touching the sky, it is not uncommon to see houses and apartment complexes sharing walls with a railway station, or houses lined up along a railway line. The noise is limited to when the trains pass, which is currently around 20-25 times a day. But ask households with infants about how that much is enough to make their lives miserable by waking up their infants just when they’ve been coaxed and cajoled and lulled to sleep.  Ask insomniac, stressed out software engineers about sleep disturbances, or ask old people about the last time they had a good night’s sleep.