Grandma's Tales

November 4, 2006

Can you hear me? 2

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:57 am

Now come indoors. Your mixie is on, and so is your washing machine. The pressure cooker whooshes and the news channel screams death and destruction. Consider the cacophony. And your neighbour’s dog barks non-stop.

“Hello, why does your dog bark so much? Is it unwell?”
Answer: “Dogs do bark (Nayinna kolaikkum). Why do you complain?”

I know for a fact that constant bombarding of the eardrum and nerves causes headaches, nausea and hearing impairment. Don’t listen to metal music on the headphones for long, studies warn us. Now read this:

Researchers, led by Dr. Stefan N. Willich of Charite University Medical Center in Berlin have found that noise can affect the heart.
A number of past studies have suggested that long-term exposure to traffic noise or loud workplaces such as factory floors may contribute to high blood pressure and heart attack risk. To the body, loud noise acts as a “warning,” and the normal stress response involves hormonal changes and a spike in blood pressure and heart rate. Researchers suspect that over time, chronic noise exposure may damage the cardiovascular system.

We do not know what it is to have a normal conversation. Or what it is to have an indoor voice. I find people shouting even when they are within 6 inches of each other. After years of teaching, my voice rings out at unacceptable decibel levels.

“Why do people raise their voice even when they greet each other?” I asked my husband. “It should be obvious to you,” he yelled. “90% of the population of Chennai is already hard of hearing!” If they are “hard of hearing”will hollering help? I don’t know. But teaching ourselves to lipread might.

Basab Pradhan (CEO Gridstone Research) has an interesting explanation. “Indians lack patience to hear each other out,” he said. “When someone is talking, we want to cut in. The only way we can do it is by raising the pitch. Over time, screeching becomes second nature.”

Do we need a course in the “Art of Conversation”?

It is good manners to talk softly. I can never understand why people shout into phones. Ambient noise? May be. If you’re going to shout, why do you need a phone at all? 🙂

There is a glimmer of hope though. Household electronics appliances are now advertised as “noise-free”. Someone has brilliantly thought this could be the USP. Good for them. Last week, when I was shopping to replace my 17-year-old mixie, I specifically asked for one that would do its job quietly. I spent an hour running all the brands, and put my money on Philips Super Silent. It is not noise-free but it is certainly noise “less”. That is a good beginning.


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