Thursday, March 15, 2007

'Noise-Based Annoyance' is a Health Term; Who Knew?

Noise-induced hearing loss is a medical term used by audiologists to describe the permanent loss of hearing associated with exposure to noise based on the sound’s loudness and duration. But noise exposure also impacts one’s health in other ways, according to a 2004 World Health Organization study. Much of this is caused by “noise annoyance”:

There is stronger evidence of noise-based annoyance, defined as “a feeling of resentment, displeasure, discomfort, dissatisfaction or offence which occurs when noise interferes with someone’s thoughts, feelings or daily activities” (Passchier-Vermeer, 1993). Noise annoyance is always assessed at the level of populations, using questionnaires.

There is consistent evidence for annoyance in populations exposed for more than one year to sound levels of 37 decibels (dB(A)), and severe annoyance at about 42 dB(A). Studies have been carried out in Western Europe, Australia and the USA, but there are no comparable studies in developing countries. There is little doubt that annoyance from noise adversely affects human well-being.


The H and 8th St NE neighborhood is exposed to more than four hours of amplified noise nearly every Saturday. The volume was recorded between an extremely annoying 79 and 102 decibels--an unhealthy dose for the people living and working in the community.

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