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Traffic is the main source of noise pollution in cities.
A Boeing 747-400 passes close to houses shortly before landing at London Heathrow Airport - aircraft noise can significantly impact human health.[1][2]

Noise pollution is the disturbing or excessive noise that may harm the activity or balance of human or animal life. The source of most outdoor noise worldwide is mainly caused by machines and transportation systems, motor vehicles, aircraft, and trains.[3][4] Outdoor noise is summarized by the word environmental noise. Poor urban planning may give rise to noise pollution, since side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can result in noise pollution in the residential areas.

Indoor noise can be caused by machines, building activities, and music performances, especially in some workplaces. There is no great difference whether noise-induced hearing loss is brought about by outside (e.g. trains) or inside (e.g. music) noise.

High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects in humans, a rise in blood pressure, and an increase in stress and vasoconstriction, and an increased incidence of coronary artery disease. In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfere with reproduction and navigation, and contribute to permanent hearing loss.



A sound level meter, a basic tool in measuring sound.

Noise pollution effects both health and behavior. Unwanted sound (noise) can damage psychological health. Noise pollution can cause hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects.[5][6][7][8]

Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life.[9]

Chronic exposure to noise may cause noise-induced hearing loss. Older males exposed to significant occupational noise demonstrate more significantly reduced hearing sensitivity than their non-exposed peers, though differences in hearing sensitivity decrease with time and the two groups are indistinguishable by age 79.[10] A comparison of Maaban tribesmen, who were insignificantly exposed to transportation or industrial noise, to a typical U.S. population showed that chronic exposure to moderately high levels of environmental noise contributes to hearing loss.[5]

High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects and exposure to moderately high levels during a single eight-hour period causes a statistical rise in blood pressure of five to ten points and an increase in stress,[5] and vasoconstriction leading to the increased blood pressure noted above, as well as to increased incidence of coronary artery disease.

Noise pollution also is a cause of annoyance. A 2005 study by Spanish researchers found that in urban areas households are willing to pay approximately four Euros per decibel per year for noise reduction.[11]


Noise can have a detrimental effect on wild animals, increasing the risk of death by changing the delicate balance in predator or prey detection and avoidance, and interfering the use of the sounds in communication, especially in relation to reproduction and in navigation. Acoustic overexposure can lead to temporary or permanent loss of hearing.

An impact of noise on wild animal life is the reduction of usable habitat that noisy areas may cause, which in the case of endangered species may be part of the path to extinction. Noise pollution has caused the death of certain species of whales that beached themselves after being exposed to the loud sound of military sonar,[12] (see also Marine mammals and sonar).

Noise also makes species communicate more loudly, which is called Lombard vocal response.[13] Scientists and researchers have conducted experiments that show whales' song length is longer when submarine-detectors are on.[14] If creatures do not "speak" loudly enough, their voice will be masked by anthropogenic sounds. These unheard voices might be warnings, finding of prey, or preparations of net-bubbling. When one species begins speaking more loudly, it will mask other species' voice, causing the whole ecosystem eventually to speak more loudly.

Marine invertebrates, such as crabs (Carcinus maenas), have also been shown to be impacted by ship noise.[15][16] Larger crabs were noted to be impacted more by the sounds than smaller crabs. Repeated exposure to the sounds did lead to acclimatization.[16]

European Robins living in urban environments are more likely to sing at night in places with high levels of noise pollution during the day, suggesting that they sing at night because it is quieter, and their message can propagate through the environment more clearly.[17] The same study showed that daytime noise was a stronger predictor of nocturnal singing than night-time light pollution, to which the phenomenon often is attributed.

Zebra finches become less faithful to their partners when exposed to traffic noise. This could alter a population's evolutionary trajectory by selecting traits, sapping resources normally devoted to other activities and thus leading to profound genetic and evolutionary consequences.[18]

Noise mitigation[edit]

The sound tube in Melbourne, Australia is designed to reduce roadway noise without distracting from the area's aesthetics
A man wears ear muffs for protection against noise pollution, 1973.
Main article: Noise mitigation

Roadway noise can be reduced by the use of noise barriers, limitation of vehicle speeds, alteration of roadway surface texture, limitation of heavy vehicles, use of traffic controls that smooth vehicle flow to reduce braking and acceleration, and tire design. An important factor in applying these strategies is a computer model for roadway noise, that is capable of addressing local topography, meteorology, traffic operations, and hypothetical mitigation. Costs of building-in mitigation can be modest, provided these solutions are sought in the planning stage of a roadway project.

Aircraft noise can be reduced by using quieter jet engines. Altering flight paths and time of day runway has benefitted residents near airports.

Industrial noise has been addressed since the 1930s via redesign of industrial equipment, shock mounted assemblies and physical barriers in the workplace.

Legal status[edit]

Main article: Noise regulation

Up until the 1970s governments viewed noise as a "nuisance" rather than an environmental problem. In the United States, there are federal standards for highway and aircraft noise; states and local governments typically have very specific statutes on building codes, urban planning, and roadway development.

Noise laws and ordinances vary widely among municipalities and indeed do not even exist in some cities. An ordinance may contain a general prohibition against making noise that is a nuisance, or it may set out specific guidelines for the level of noise allowable at certain times of the day and for certain activities.

The Environmental Protection Agency retains authority to investigate and study noise and its effect, disseminate information to the public regarding noise pollution and its adverse health effects, respond to inquiries on matters related to noise, and evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations for protecting the public health and welfare, pursuant to the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978.[19]

Portland, Oregon instituted the first comprehensive noise code in 1975 with funding from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and HUD (Housing and Urban Development). The Portland Noise Code includes potential fines of up to $5000 per infraction and is the basis for other major U.S. and Canadian city noise ordinances.[20]

Many conflicts over noise pollution are handled by negotiation between the emitter and the receiver. Escalation procedures vary by country, and may include action in conjunction with local authorities, in particular the police.


Impact in the United Kingdom[edit]

Figures compiled by Rockwool, the mineral wool insulation manufacturer, based on responses from local authorities to a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request reveal in the period April 2008 – 2009 UK councils received 315,838 complaints about noise pollution from private residences. This resulted in environmental health officers across the UK serving 8,069 noise abatement notices, or citations under the terms of the Anti-Social Behaviour (Scotland) Act. In the last 12 months, 524 confiscations of equipment have been authorized involving the removal of powerful speakers, stereos and televisions. Westminster City Council has received more complaints per head of population than any other district in the UK with 9,814 grievances about noise, which equates to 42.32 complaints per thousand residents. Eight of the top 10 councils ranked by complaints per 1,000 residents are located in London.[21]


Noise pollution is a major problem in India. The government of India has regulations against firecrackers and loudspeakers, but enforcement is extremely lax.[22] Awaaz Foundation is an Indian NGO working to control noise pollution from various sources in Mumbai through advocacy, public interest litigation, awareness, and educational campaigns since 2003.[23]


  1. ^ Tödlicher Lärm - Spiegel, Nr. 51, 14 Dezember 2009, Page 45 (German)
  2. ^ Molesworth BR, Burgess M, Gunnell B. (2013). Using the effect of alcohol as a comparison to illustrate the detrimental effects of noise on performance. Noise & Health, 15, 367-373.
  3. ^ Senate Public Works Committee, Noise Pollution and Abatement Act of 1972, S. Rep. No. 1160, 92nd Cong. 2nd session
  4. ^ C. Michael Hogan and Gary L. Latshaw, "The relationship between highway planning and urban noise", Proceedings of the ASCE, Urban Transportation, May 21–23, 1973, Chicago, Illinois. By American Society of Civil Engineers. Urban Transportation Division
  5. ^ a b c S. Rosen and P. Olin, Hearing Loss and Coronary Heart Disease, Archives of Otolaryngology, 82:236 (1965)
  6. ^ J.M. Field, Effect of personal and situational variables upon noise annoyance in residential areas, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 93: 2753-2763 (1993)
  7. ^ "Noise Pollution". World Health Organisation. 
  8. ^ "Road noise link to blood pressure". BBC News. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  9. ^ Jefferson, Catrice. "Noise Pollution". U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 2013-09-24. 
  10. ^ Rosenhall U, Pedersen K, Svanborg A (1990). "Presbycusis and noise-induced hearing loss". Ear Hear 11 (4): 257–63. doi:10.1097/00003446-199008000-00002. PMID 2210099. 
  11. ^ Jesús Barreiro, Mercedes Sánchez, Montserrat Viladrich-Grau (2005), "How much are people willing to pay for silence? A contingent valuation study", Applied Economics, 37 (11)
  12. ^ Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Event of 15–16 March 2000
  13. ^ http://www.dosits.org/glossary/pop/lvr.htm
  14. ^ Variation in humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) song length in relation to low-frequency sound broadcasts
  15. ^ McClain, Craig. "Loud Noise Makes Crabs Even More Crabby". Deep Sea News. Retrieved 2013-04-04. 
  16. ^ a b Wale, M. A.; Simpson, S. D.; Radford, A. N. (2013). "Size-dependent physiological responses of shore crabs to single and repeated playback of ship noise". Biology Letters 9 (2): 20121194–20121194. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2012.1194. ISSN 1744-9561. 
  17. ^ Fuller RA, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2007). "Daytime noise predicts nocturnal singing in urban robins". Biology Letters 3 (4): 368–70. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2007.0134. PMC 2390663. PMID 17456449. 
  18. ^ Milius, S. (2007). High Volume, Low Fidelity: Birds are less faithful as sounds blare, Science News vol. 172, p. 116. (references)
  19. ^ EPA. "Noise pollution". Environmental protection agency. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  20. ^ City of Portland, Oregon. Auditor's Office. Chapter 18.02 Title Noise Control. Retrieved on April 20, 2009.
  21. ^ "London is home to the noisiest neighbours". London Evening Standard. 
  22. ^ Govt of India: Central Pollution Control Board FAQs
  23. ^ Rising festival noise undoing past efforts'

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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The New Indian Express
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:22:30 -0700

VIJAYAWADA: Lack of traffic sense, usage of vacuum horns in RTC buses and the craze for trendy horns among youth have become a nuisance to the residents. There has been a phenomenal rise in noise pollution in the city. According to the ambient air ...

Science World Report

Thu, 07 Aug 2014 07:14:31 -0700

Noise pollution isn't just a problem for humans living in busy cities or sharing a wall with raucous neighbors. Man-made noises take a toll on animals, too. Birds change their songs when they find themselves in urban centers or next to rumbling ...
Tiger's Roar
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 07:57:10 -0700

(BPT) - Whether it's the neighbor's lawnmower, low-flying aircraft, heavy traffic or loud music, noise pollution can hinder you from truly enjoying your home. Nowadays, a quiet place to relax and chill out can be increasingly difficult to find. Yet, a ...
Williston Daily Herald
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 08:13:00 -0700

Williston residents have submitted a petition to local and state agencies to seek help against excessive noise levels and air pollution created by high volumes of traffic at the Highway 2 and 11th Street intersection. Residents Preston Persson and ...
Buffalo News
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 16:50:25 -0700

It starts early on a Sunday morning, with a lawn mower or hedge trimmer. Then come the roaring motorcycles and screaming sirens. A long, angry blast on a car horn. A car with its stereo thumping, and then another, and another. You're walking on the ...

Sarnia Observer

Sarnia Observer
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:00:00 -0700

Increased traffic causing noise pollution, resident says 0. By Barbara Simpson, Sarnia Observer. Friday, August 22, 2014 4:58:23 EDT PM. Traffic flows down Lakeshore Road near Mike Weir Park Friday. A Bright's Grove resident is concerned the growth of ...
Times of India
Tue, 05 Aug 2014 12:12:34 -0700

The National Initiative for Safe Sound (NISS) campaign aims to reduce noise pollution. For this, the doctors have decided to educate students, police, residents' associations, advocates and even political parties about the ill-effects of sound pollution.
LA Magazine
Mon, 11 Aug 2014 08:56:15 -0700

Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization link noise pollution to high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, anxiety, poorer work habits, and lower grades at school. Sleep is where the impact registers most.

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