Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Garth A. Rattray | Noise can be lethal

Published:Monday | January 20, 2020 | 12:07 AM
The noise effects of sleep disturbance are grave.

Our Constitution guarantees that all citizens have the right to “enjoy a healthy and productive environment…” (like their homes). And the Noise Abatement Act stipulates that loud sounds should not be “reasonably capable of causing annoyance to persons in the vicinity…”. But I see where the Government is relenting to pressure from some in the entertainment industry that want to make a living at the expense of the health and well-being of others.

Arguments have been proffered that many people benefit from these events. They include – the venue owners, vendors, gatemen, some police personnel, producers and organisers, sound system operators, entertainers/performers, handymen, the stage managers, the prop construction crew and the clean-up crew.

Patrons claim that without their ability to blow off steam, dance, sing and enjoy their type of music, the pent-up energy and stress will cause crime levels to increase. But no one cares that those within earshot of the loud and/or lewd music and noise may be literally dying because of these events.

The effects of sleep disturbance are grave. Sleep deprivation in children can cause attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, poor concentration/memory, retarded growth, inefficient immune responses, sleepiness in class, anxiety, headaches, aggression, bed-wetting and poor academic performance. Eventually, those children end up with behavioural problems coupled with deficient academic and vocational skills. Their risk for a life of dependency and crime is high.

In adults, it can cause stress/anxiety, major depression, aggression, phobias, early onset of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, weight problems, headaches, daytime drowsiness, poor job performance, falling asleep while driving, heart disease, fainting, lung disease, stroke, heart attacks, short-term memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, poor concentration, frequent night-time urination, erectile dysfunction in middle-age men, loss of libido, abnormal heart rhythms, reflux disease with respiratory, dental and ENT manifestations, poor body temperature regulation, and several other maladies.

One promoter told me that people hardly complain if they are ‘disturbed’ by oldies music, but they complain and call the police for the more current genre of music. I know that some music and sounds are soothing and even used to lull children and adults to sleep, but the invasive midrange and loud base that rattles windows and shakes walls can’t soothe anybody. Another consideration is the decibel level entering homes, especially at nights. This will wake the dead.

Aside from the ridiculously high volume, there is also the frequent lewd content. I’ve heard DJs with guttural, raspy voices (I don’t know how their vocal cords survive) scream out the vilest filth imaginable over the microphone – “Ooman, unnu fi #!&%$!! and %$# unnu #%!!”


I had a patient whose pleas to the authorities were ignored; she ended up retreating to her church in order to sleep. Another went abroad because of nightly nightclub noise several blocks away, and another suffers severe anxiety and hypertension because of a bar directly across from her home that blasts loud and lewd music many nights and into the mornings. Those are only a few examples.

The noise abatement problem is being portrayed as only affecting a certain faction of society that is being discriminatory, intolerant, unreasonable, uncompromising, and won’t allow others to survive or have fun. But disturbing noise that prevents people from relaxing, resting/sleeping can lead to those same chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that the Government constantly harps on. The inability to rest sufficiently contributes to serious health and social problems, traffic fatalities and crime.

The Government should routinely monitor decibel levels near events until they create entertainment zones far from residential areas and encourage and facilitate enclosed entertainment venues.

I am very disappointed that the ministries responsible for the protection of our constitutional rights, and for our health and well-being, are not defending citizens/victims in this matter.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and