The Noisiest City in the World

Karachi has been named the noisiest city in the world. The capital of the province of Sindh and Pakistan’s most densely populated city, it is home to 14.9 million people according to the 2017 census. So, it should come as no surprise that noise levels – especially from traffic – are likely to cause health problems for residents.

On the coastline of the Arabian Sea, Karachi is Pakistan’s main industrial and financial centre and home to the nation’s busiest airport, Jinnah International Airport. It also has two major seaports, Port Bin Qasim and the Port of Karachi.

Studies have shown that traffic is the major cause of noise pollution. Rail traffic, air traffic, minibuses, motorcycles, rickshaws, buses, cars, trucks and water tankers pound the roads and as well as the engine sound, many drivers beep their horns out of frustration at the heavy traffic, which further exacerbates the situation.

A noise study reported by the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association revealed that the maximum noise-level recorded at peak rush hour (5pm) at Tibet Centre was 180dB, while the lowest level at Clifton Road (the quietest city centre spot) was 50dB, recorded at 3am. Short bursts of car horns sent the noise meter needle rocketing to between 160dB and 170dB, even in quieter periods. This compared with the noise levels recorded in a Karachi textile mill, that ranged from 85dB and 112dB. It was found that 22% of the workers exposed to excess noise in the textile mill had hearing loss and more than half of those people were also suffering with tinnitus.

After 125 people who had been exposed to traffic noise of 90dB or more for a period of at least six months were studied, it was reported that noise-induced hearing loss due to road traffic was prevalent in Karachi. Residents in the Tibet Centre, Gurumander and Marry Weather Tower areas were randomly selected to take part in the study. After being subjected to continual loud traffic noise for more than 12 hours a day, experts evaluated their hearing. It was found that 82.4% of those monitored had suffered hearing loss to some degree, with 33.6% having mild hearing loss, 45.6% having moderate hearing loss and 3.2% having moderate to severe hearing loss. When the subjects were questioned, 55.2% of them said that the traffic noise bothered them and that they considered it was detrimental to their quality of life.


The vulnerable groups recognised as being most at risk included rickshaw drivers, street vendors, shopkeepers and traffic police personnel. Their daily exposure to excess noise led to other symptoms, as well as irreversible hearing loss – such as agitation, anxiety, sleep disturbances and reduced work efficiency. The study concluded there was a direct link between noise induced hearing loss and exposure to traffic noise above permissible levels. It urged the Karachi traffic authorities to introduce measures to reduce the city’s noise levels.

Surveys have proved that long-term exposure to excessive noise can irreparably damage hearing and cause other health issues – the importance of noise control products can never over-emphasised. Sound Planning has more than 35 years’ experience in acoustic solutions for a variety of environments and we can provide a complete turnkey solution to clients’ requirements. Please contact us for further information and advice on our full range of services.


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