Awareness and Advocacy


With approximately 63 million people suffering from significant hearing impairment, deafness was found to be the second most common cause of disability and the most common cause of sensory disability in India by the 2002 NSS 58th round. It is common understanding that persons with disabilities suffer from hardships in every sphere of life. Hence, on the occasion of the International Week of the Deaf commencing 23rd September, also the International Day of Sign Languages, it is relevant to examine the laws pertaining to deafness in India.

World Hearing Day

World Hearing Day is held on 3 March each year to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world. Each year, WHO decides the theme and develops evidence-based advocacy materials such as brochures, flyers, posters, banners, infographics and presentations, among others. These materials are shared with partners in government and civil society around the world as well as WHO regional and country offices.

At its headquarters in Geneva, WHO organizes an annual World Hearing Day event. In recent years, an increasing number of Member States and other partner agencies have joined World Hearing Day by hosting a range of activities and events in their countries. WHO invites all stakeholders to join this global initiative.

If you would like to receive updates and information about the World Hearing Day, you can register by sending an email to whf@who.int.

The WHO, on March 3 in 2007, observed World Hearing Day for the first time. In 2016, they decided to declare this day as World Hearing Day. It was known as International Ear Care Day before that. Communication is a fundamental human right and people with disorders and difficulties find it difficult to connect. Across the world, 360 million people suffer from disabling hearing loss. Educating people and teaching them about their rights will help them.

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World Hearing Day 2022

Theme of 2022: To hear for life, listen with care!

It is possible to have good hearing across the life course through ear and hearing care​

Many common causes of hearing loss can be prevented, including hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds​

‘Safe listening’ can mitigate the risk of hearing loss associated with recreational sound exposure​

On World Hearing Day 2022, WHO focuses on the importance of safe listening as a means of maintaining good hearing across the life course.

WHO calls upon governments, industry partners and civil society to raise awareness for and implement evidence-based standards that promote safe listening

Hashtags: #safelistening #worldhearingday #hearingcare

Target Groups

  • Decision makers

  • Venue managers, and owners of entertainment venues

  • General public especially young adults

Launches

  • Global standard for safe listening entertainment venues​

  • mSafeListening handbook​

    • The mSafeListening handbook provides evidence-based message libraries for the promotion of safe listening behaviours and prevention of hearing loss. It includes guidance on how to develop, integrate, implement and evaluate a national mSafeListening programme.

  • Media toolkit for journalists

World Hearing Day 2021

Theme of 2021: Hearing Care for ALL! Screen, Rehabilitate, Communicate

World Hearing Day 2021 launched of the first-ever World Report on Hearing (WRH) The WRH has been developed in response to the World Health Assembly resolution (WHA70.13), adopted in 2017 as a means of providing guidance for Member States to integrate ear and hearing care into their national health plans.

Based on the best available evidence, this report presents epidemiological and financial data on hearing loss; outlines available cost-effective solutions and sets the way forward through ‘Integrated people-centered ear and hearing care’ (IPC-EHC). The report proposes a set of key H.E.A.R.I.N.G. interventions that must be delivered through a strengthened health system to realize the vision of IPC-EHC.

The WRH was developed in collaboration with experts and stakeholders in the field of ear and hearing care who informed the report’s strategic direction and ensured that it reflects a range of cultural contexts and approaches to hearing care. The report is global in its reach while keeping a special focus on low- and middle-income countries, where the number of people with hearing loss is not matched by the availability of services and resources.

Key Messages of 2021

For Policy Makers

  • The number of people living with unaddressed hearing loss and ear diseases is unacceptable.

  • Timely action is needed to prevent and address hearing loss across the life course.

  • Investing in cost effective interventions will benefit people with hearing loss and bring financial gains to the society.

  • Governments must act to integrate person-centred ear and hearing care within national health plans for universal health coverage.

For General Public

  • Good hearing and communication are important at all stages of life.

  • Hearing loss (and related ear diseases) can be avoided through preventative actions such as: protection against loud sounds; good ear care practices and immunization.

  • Hearing loss (and related ear diseases) can be addressed when it is identified in a timely manner and appropriate care sought.

  • People at risk of hearing loss should check their hearing regularly.

  • People having hearing loss (or related ear diseases) should seek care from a health care provider.

Use of firecrackers is increasing and they are now used round the year for every kind of celebration including weddings, cricket matches, Hindu, Muslim and Christian festivals and other miscellaneous events. These firecrackers are being lighted on public roads with traffic passing over them momentarily.

Mumbai is the noisiest city in the world and traffic is a continuous source of noise. An auto rickshaw in Mumbai measures 82.6 dB during this recording by Awaaz Foundation

Sumaira Abdulali recording noise under a Silence Zone board at a religious place

AWAAZ Foundation

A voice against Noise Pollution

Awaaz Foundation is a non governmental organization working on environment, particularly noise pollution and sand mining - giving the citizens of India a voice against environmental concerns, since 2006.

GetWellSoonMumbai of Awaaz Foundation creates awareness on links between environmental pollution and health.

Awaaz Foundation was founded on 21 February 2006 by Sumaira Abdulali, a well-known environmentalist, who has exposed many scandals of environmental villainy in India at personal risk. The Foundation has filed several public interest litigations, including demands for strict implementation of noise pollution laws, better functioning of Mumbai's Tree Authority, and reducing noise pollution.

Advocacy against Noise Pollution

  • Awaaz Foundation has advocated against noise pollution from various sources and has conducted campaigns to create awareness of adverse health effects from noise in a methodical and scientific manner. The various noise pollution campaigns of the Foundation have received widespread public support and turned into a public movement in Mumbai followed by the rest of the country. Increased awareness and vigilance of citizens has resulted in policy change, better systems and better implementation of Noise Rules.

  • Awaaz Foundation has measured noise levels from myriad sources including festivals, traffic, construction and religious places. This is a measurement during Ganpati 2013, the loudest festival in Mumbai.

  • Awaaz Foundation systematically collected noise pollution data for the first time in India, collated and presented it to the State and Union Governments, Courts, police and citizens. Data was generated of noise levels at major events since 2003, from sources including firecrackers, traffic, loudspeakers, industrial equipment and construction.

  • In 2010 Awaaz Foundation tested noise levels of helicopters after several leading Industrialists applied for permission to build private helipads atop their residential buildings in densely populated areas of Mumbai. After the data was presented in court. Permission to use private helipads in all urban areas of India were banned by the MoEF.

  • Also based on data presented to MoEF during the pendency of the public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court, Government of India's Ministry of Environment and Forests accepted all recommendations by Awaaz Foundation on 11 January 2010 for stricter noise laws in the country and issued a new notification to ban use of loudspeakers, musical instruments and honking in the areas demarcated as silence zones, including areas around religious places throughout India.

  • Awaaz foundation filed a Public Interest Litigation on 12 November 2007 in Mumbai High Court seeking implementation of Noise Pollution Rules, 2000, which contemplate creation of silence zones around educational places, courts, hospitals and religious places also.

  • In 2009 the Bombay High Court accepted the need for implementation of stricter noise laws and ordered the State Government to implement Noise Pollution regulation rules notified by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), (one of the Subordinate and statutory bodies) of Government of India's Ministry of Environment and Forests. Consequent to the Bombay High Court Order, the State Government of Maharashtra initially notified and asked municipal bodies in the state to demarcate an area of 100 metres (330 ft) around educational institutions, hospitals and courts as silence zones but left out the areas surrounding religious places as silence zones. Awaaz Foundation once again petitioned the Court to have these places notified as silence zones. On 6 August 2009, the principal secretary of the Home Department, Government of Maharashtra in an affidavit told the court that about 1,313 religious places had been identified in the city of Mumbai and the BMC would put up Silence zone boards within three months.

  • Finally on 20 Aug 2009 principal secretary (appeals and security) Government of Maharashtra Mr. Anna Dani filed an affidavit stating that a supplementary notification has been issued to include all religious places in silence zone, and has been circulated to all civic bodies in the state.

Sumaira Abdulali (1961-) is an environmentalist from Mumbai, India, founder of the NGO Awaaz Foundation. She was co-chairman of the Conservation Subcommittee and honorary secretary of Asia's oldest and largest environmental NGO, the Bombay Natural History Society, and is currently a Governing Council Member.

Through legal interventions, advocacy and public campaigns, contribution to documentary films, television debates and press articles she has successfully mainstreamed and built consciousness about previously unknown environmental hazards, notably noise pollution and sand mining, and has won national and International awards for her work.

She also set up the first network for protection of activists in India after an attack on her by the sand mafia is 2004.

She has been referred to as "one of India's foremost environmental activists."

Indian festivals: Increasingly commercialized and politicized, are becoming louder and show record peak levels in spite of increased public awareness and better implementation of time limits following Court Orders.

These are the cities with the worst noise pollution (2017). This is the plot of noise pollution in 50 different cities with two cities of India - Delhi and Mumbai on top five!

Implementation of Noise Pollution Laws

  • Awaaz Foundation's advocacy against noise pollution in India motivated the Government of India to make rules and implement them. Awaaz Foundation has successfully petitioned both local and state governments in India to impose stricter noise pollution laws. Under the Environment Protection Act, in which the new Noise Pollution Rules are framed, violation of the rules is punishable with a Jail term of up to five years and fine of ₹100,000 (US$1,300).

  • Firecrackers, initially used mainly during the Diwali Festival, are now used to celebrate almost any occasion including weddings, cricket matches, and festivals of every community. Awaaz Foundation tested the noise levels of firecrackers along with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

    • The noise level of almost all crackers exceeded 100 dB and some varieties consistently exceeded 125 dB.

    • Firecracker packaging did not disclose details of noise levels or chemical content or even the year of manufacture;

    • Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) who is the Authority to check firecrackers at the stage of manufacture and the Arms and Explosives Department of the Mumbai Police who license firecracker vendors did not take action for many years following complaints of violations.

    • In 2012, Awaaz Foundation, under Right to Information, obtained an Order to disclose details of all firecrackers tested by PESO on their website.

    • Diwali 2012 was the quietest Diwali in recent years. In 2013. the Mumbai Police undertook an awareness and enforcement campaign for the 10pm deadline on bursting crackers during the Diwali Festival. The Firecracker Distributors' Association of Mumbai and Thane also cooperated in this effort. Diwali 2013 was the quietest in a decade.

    • Awaaz Foundation measured noise at the Shiv Sena Party's annual Dasara Rally in 2010, 2011, 2012 2013, 2014 and 2015 and presented their findings to the Police and Bombay High Court. Based on these readings the police filed cases against Rally organizers.

    • Following final hearings of Awaaz Foundation's PIL, clubbed with nine other PILs by the Bombay High Court in August 2016, a comprehensive final Order was passed. For the first time, noise levels during the Ganpati festival declined in 2016. Noise levels declined again during Diwali 2016. Mumbai, which in January 2016 was named the noisiest city in India by the Central Pollution Control Board was the only city to see decline in noise levels during the Diwali Festival. The Mumbai Police issued a Statement thanking citizens of Mumbai for making noise pollution reduction a citizens' movement.

Measuring Sound Levels

  • Awaaz Foundation also has organised volunteers groups, offered them support and education to all those who faced noise related problems, independently monitored Ambient noise level using sound level meter. and interacted with the authorities to ensure their support and co operation. Excessive noise from loudspeakers, construction, traffic and firecrackers have been separately taken up by Foundation at various times and with various authorities; educational programs and publications for schools, colleges, citizens groups and the authorities empowered to implement the laws have been supported and implemented.

  • Awaaz Foundation encouraged citizen participation to implement noise rules by creating awareness about a free downloadable application onto phones to measure decibel levels. Awaaz requested citizens to complain to the Mumbai Police website with a copy to them for follow up and received numerous complaints in the festival season 2012.

  • In 2013, Awaaz Foundation used newly available technology called Noise Watch, a free App to use smartphones or iPhones as decibel meters to build a participatory citizens campaign to map noise levels across Mumbai.

  • A Facebook page Citizens' Noise Map supports the initiative and the readings taken by citizens are upload able directly onto a GIS map. The initiative caught on quickly during Ganpati 2013 and spread to other Indian cities such as Pune almost immediately. The citizens' noise map was sent to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and spurred a decision of the Government to conduct a formal noise map of Mumbai.

Spreading Awareness of Noise Pollution

  • Awaaz Foundation has conducted numerous awareness campaigns including

Awareness

Being Deaf-Aware

Communication is an essential part of life, but Deaf and hard-of-hearing people are often cut off from many forms of communicating that hearing people rely on. This can be frustrating and isolating.

The odds are that, even if you are hearing, you know and regularly interact with someone who has a significant hearing loss. The World Health Organization estimates that about 466 million people around the world have significant hearing loss, and that by 2050, that figure will nearly double. That will mean that one in 10 people will have significant hearing loss in the next 30 years.

There are easy ways that each of us can be a little more Deaf aware. This ranges from knowing more about Deaf culture to supporting the equal access that many deaf and hard-of-hearing people fight for.

A first step is simply being attentive to the ways you can effectively communicate with someone who is deaf or hard-of-hearing. The most important, step in being deaf-aware is being open. With that attitude, you and the person you are communicating with will find the flow that works for you.

BASIC TIPS

  • Understanding Deafness

Deafness is a spectrum. If someone says they are deaf, they are not necessarily ‘profoundly deaf’ (meaning they can’t hear anything at all). They might not be able to hear anything at all, or they might be able to hear conversation fairly well, or any variation in between. Degrees of hearing loss vary dramatically from person to person. Some people may also wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Communication styles

Each deaf or hard-of-hearing person will also have different ways of communicating. They might include a sign language (of which there are many!), lip-reading, the use of an interpreter, a combination of all of these, or none of these. Some deaf or hard-of-hearing people might hear to a degree that they can listen to a conversation and respond directly.

Environmental factors might also come into play. It may be harder for a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to make out sounds and words in a noisy environment, so even if they can hear you in a quiet environment, they might need to use alternative communication methods in a noisier area.

Deaf as an identity

It’s also important to understand deafness as an identity. ‘Deaf’ with a capital ‘D’ refers to a cultural identity, which many people take pride in, while ‘deaf’ with a lower-case ‘d’ simply refers to a degree of hearing loss in practical terms. Many Deaf people do not consider deafness to be a disability, but some do.

  • The Signs that Someone Can’t Hear You

Often, you might not realize that someone is deaf or hard-of-hearing. Here are some signs that may help you notice. Someone may:

  • Ask you to repeat phrases or words

  • Seem confused while in conversation

  • Appear to be ignoring you

  • Pay close attention to your facial expressions

  • Communicate with hand gestures that you don’t understand

  • Be wearing a hearing aid or cochlear implant

  • Getting Someone’s Attention

If someone is deaf or hard-of-hearing, yelling “Hey you!” across a noisy room isn’t going to work. Neither is whistling. Of course, it’s also not likely to be a welcome greeting by anyone.

If you suspect someone is deaf or hard-of-hearing, you can move into their field of vision to get their attention. Alternatively, a friendly wave can let them know you are interested in a chat. Whichever way you choose, make sure you have a warm smile and are actively seeking eye contact.

  • Body Position is Important

Body positioning is also critical. Face the person, and, if at all possible, be at the same eye level. For example, stand if they are standing; sit if they are sitting. And don’t forget to make and maintain eye contact.

  • Speak in a Clear, UNexaggerated Way

Many deaf or hard-of-hearing pe