“Changing mindsets”

In a few days, Guyana joined the rest of the world on Thursday in observing World Hearing Day 2024, themed: “Changing mindsets: Let’s make ear and hearing care a reality for all!”
This year World Health Organisation will focus on overcoming the challenges posed by societal misperceptions and stigmatising mindsets through awareness-raising and information-sharing, targeted at the public and health care providers.
Ahead of this day, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has already stated; “Hearing loss has often been referred to as an “invisible disability”, not just because of the lack of visible symptoms, but because it has long been stigmatized in communities and ignored by policy-makers.”
A WHO report in 2021 on hearing had highlighted the increasing number of people living with and at risk of hearing loss. It highlighted noise control as one of the seven keys H.E.A.R.I.N.G. interventions and stressed the importance of mitigating exposure to loud sounds. WHO (WHO) has projected that, by 2050, one in four persons will be living with some degree of hearing loss.
In Guyana, noise nuisance has been a soar issue and has become unbearable, and, on many occasions, citizens are crying out for stronger action to be taken against persons disrupting the peace and quietude in their communities.
Over the past few years, there were several letters to the editor wherein citizens expressed how disgusted and frustrated they are at the level of noise nuisance in their neighbourhood. It is even more shocking that even in the midst of a pandemic, persons still carry on with loud music as if they are unconcerned about the persons, it might be affecting.
What is even more unfortunate is that no one dares object to this level of disrespect that is being foisted upon citizens. In some cases, when there is a complaint made against a particular liquor shop or individual blasting their music to the fullest, the person making the complaint is verbally or even physically abused. Sometimes out of fear, citizens remain quiet and are left with no other choice but to endure the level of discomfort.
There is also a general perception, whether justified or not, that the Police have not been very proactive in addressing these concerns. Several letter writers have expressed the view that even after several calls to the Police station for action to be taken against the perpetrators, the lawless behaviour still continues. In most cases, even after a warning has been issued by the Police, the perpetrators comply for a while, but, not long after, engage in the same behaviour.
We believe that higher fines and stricter penalties are needed to curb noise nuisance once and for all.
There are several issues which must be considered when updating the legislation, as they may not have been very clearly spelt out or catered for before. Among them are a limit to the number of permits and licences that should be granted within a zoning area; the overall operations of liquor shops, how they are constructed etc; guidelines for hosting social events; criteria used to issue permits for those events, or businesses which are in close proximity of each other; and fines to be imposed when there is a breach of the law. Also, with recent technological developments, it is necessary to go back to the drawing board.
Curbing noise nuisance in the society is a constant struggle which must continue, and all stakeholders must play their part. Policy makers must look into the discomfort of the people, and amend the laws to alleviate this.
In the meantime, we urge citizens who are affected to continue lodging reports of noise nuisance at the nearest Police station or divisional headquarters, so that some form of action could be taken against those found culpable.
As a people, we must also make the conscious effort to abide by the laws and guidelines set out by the Government.
Noise nuisance and hearing loss go hand in hand, and our ability to hear is precious. The mindset change has to start with us.