Administrative Conference of the United States

Noise and Its Effects

Dr. Alice H. Suter

Conference Consultant

(November 1991)

This report was prepared for the consideration of the Administrative Conference of the United States. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Conference or its committees except where formal recommendations of the Conference are cited.


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I. Introduction 1

II. ONAC'S Activities in Noise Effects Research and Criteria 2

III. Physical Properties and Measurement of Sound 3

A. Physical Properties 3
B. Instrumentation 3
C. Measurement and Descriptors 3

IV. Noise in America 5

A. Population Trends 5

B. Noise Sources 5

1. Road traffic noise 5
2. Aircraft noise 7
3. Noise from railroads 7
4. Construction noise 7
5. Noise in industry 7
6. Noise in buildings 8
7. Noise from consumer products 8

C. Numbers of People Exposed to Noise 9

D. Summary: Noise in America 11

V. Effects of Noise 14

A. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss 14

1. Extent of noise-induced hearing loss from environmental sources 14
2. The handicap of noise-induced hearing loss 15
3. The study of noise-induced hearing loss 15
4. Risk of hearing impairment from continuous noise 15
5. Varying and intermittent noise 16
6. Impulse noise 16
7. Susceptibility 16
8. Interactions with other agents 17
9. Hearing protectors 17
10. Summary: Noise-induced hearing loss 17

B. Interference With Communication 18

1. Prediction of speech interference 18
2. Criteria for speech and warning signals 19
3. The effect of hearing protectors on speech and warning signal perception 19
4. Scholastic performance 19
5. Summary: Interference with communication 20

C. Effects of Noise on Sleep 20

1. Assessing sleep disturbance 20
2. Criteria for sleep interference 21
3. After-effects and habituation 21
4. Summary: Effects of noise on sleep 21

D. Effects on Performance and Behavior 22

1. Sensory and motor effects 22
2. Noise variables 22
3. Task variables 23
4. After-effects 23
5. Effects of noise on social behavior 23
6. Summary: Effects on performance and behavior 24

E. Extra-Auditory Health Effects 24

1. Theoretical basis 24
2. Effects on blood pressure 25
3. Effects on blood chemistry 26
4. Interactions 26
5. Other adverse effects 26

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6. Summary: Extra-auditory effects 27

F. Annoyance 27

1. Predicting annoyance for public policy purposes 27
2. Metrics 28
3. Criteria 28
4. Sources 29
5. Nonacoustics variables 32
6. Habituation 32
7. Annoyance and health 35
8. Summary: Annoyance 35

VI. Conclusions 36
References 37


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I. Introduction

This report presents an overview of noise and its effects on people. Special emphasis is placed on developments over the past decade, both in terms of noise conditions and noise effects research. By doing so, this report should illustrate some of the reasons for concern about noise problems, which persist after the closing of EPA's Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC).

Noise has a significant impact on the quality of life, and in that sense, it is a health problem in accordance with the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of health. WHO's definition of health includes total physical and mental well-being, as well as the absence of disease. Along these lines, a 1971 WHO working group stated: "Noise must be recognized as a major threat to human well-being." (Suess, 1973)

The effects of noise are seldom catastrophic, and are often only transitory, but adverse effects can be cumulative with prolonged or repeated exposure. Although it often causes discomfort and sometimes pain, noise does not cause ears to bleed and noise-induced hearing loss usually takes years to develop. Noise-induced hearing loss can indeed impair the quality of life, through a reduction in the ability to hear important sounds and to communicate with family and friends. Some of the other effects of noise, such as sleep disruption, the masking of speech and television, and the inability to enjoy one's property or leisure time also impair the quality of life. In addition, noise can interfere with the teaching and learning process, disrupt the performance of certain tasks, and increase the incidence of antisocial behavior. There is also some evidence that it can adversely affect general health and well-being in the same manner as chronic stress. These effects will be discussed in more detail in the paragraphs below.

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II. ONAC'S Activities in Noise Effects Research and Criteria

In response to the mandates of Section 5 of the Noise Control Act of 1972, ONAC published Public Health and welfare Criteria for Noise (EPA, 1973a) and Information on Levels of Environmental Noise Requisite to Protect Public Health and welfare with an Adequate Margin of Safety (EPA, 1974a), popularly known as the "Levels Document" for obvious reasons). Also in 1973,ONAC sponsored an international conference in Yugoslavia on the effects of noise, from which voluminous proceedings there published (EPA, 1973b). All of these documents there widely distributed and, although somewhat dated, are still read and referenced today. Because a considerable amount of research in this area has been conducted over the past 2 decades, these documents would benefit from revision.

In these documents ONAC established dose-response relationships for noise and its effects, and identified safe levels of noise to prevent hearing loss and activity interference. The agency also established the day-night average noise level as a universal descriptor to be used in assessing the impact of community noise.

Section 14 of the Act directs ONAC to conduct or finance research on noise effects, including investigations of the psychological and physiological effects of noise on humans and the effects of noise on animals. Approximately 35 technical reports resulted from these efforts, as well as contractor reports and numerous articles in scientific journals. Some of the more noteworthy examples of EPA's research program there:

Although much useful information was derived from these programs, some of them there irreparably damaged by the abrupt termination of funding from ONAC that occurred in 1981 and 1982. For one example, the Johns Hopkins study of cardiovascular effects of noise on primates was terminated after testing on only one subject had been completed. For another, the longitudinal data from the Fels Institute is now of little value after a hiatus of more than a decade.

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III. Physical Properties and Measurement of Sound

A. Physical Properties

Noise is often defined as unwanted sound. To gain a satisfactory understanding of the effects of noise, it would be useful to look briefly at the physical properties of sound.

Sound is the result of pressure changes in a medium (usually air), caused by vibration or turbulence. The amplitude of these pressure changes is stated in terms of sound level, and the rapidity with which these changes occur is the sound's frequency. Sound level is measured in decibels (abbreviated dB), and sound frequency is stated in terms of cycles per second, or nowadays, Hertz (abbreviated Hz). Sound level in decibels is a logarithmic rather than a linear measure of the change in pressure with respect to a reference pressure level. A small increase in decibels can represent a large increase in sound energy. Technically, an increase of 3 dB represents a doubling of sound energy, and an increase of 10 dB represents a tenfold increase. The ear, however, perceives a 10-dB increase as doubling of loudness.

Another important aspect is the duration of the sound, and the way it is distributed in time. Continuous sounds have little or no variation in time, varying sounds have differing maximum levels over a period of time, intermittent sounds are interspersed with quiet periods, and impulsive sounds are characterized by relatively high sound levels and very short durations.

The effects of noise are determined mainly by the duration and level of the noise, but they are also influenced by the frequency. Long-lasting, high-level sounds are the most damaging to hearing and generally the most annoying. High-frequency sounds tend to be more hazardous to hearing and more annoying than low-frequency sounds. The way sounds are distributed in time is also important, in that intermittent sounds appear to be somewhat less damaging to hearing than continuous sounds because of the ear's ability to regenerate during the intervening quiet periods. However, intermittent and impulsive sounds tend to be more annoying because of their unpredictability.

B. Instrumentation

The instrument for measuring noise is the basic sound level meter or a number of its derivatives, including noise dose meters (usually called dosimeters), integrating sound level meters, graphic level recorders, and community noise analyzers. Improvements in all of these instruments have taken place during the last decade. This is especially true of the computerized dosimeters and integrating meters, which can measure, compute, store, and display comprehensive data on the noise field (Earshen, 1986). These instruments are now able to measure over very wide dynamic ranges and to measure impulsive sounds with a high degree of accuracy.

C. Measurement and Descriptors

Most sound level meters and dosimeters use built-in frequency filters or "weighting networks " in the measurement process. By far the most frequently used filter is the A weighting network, which discriminates against low-frequency and very high-frequency sounds. A weighting approximates the equal-loudness response of the ear at moderate sound levels, and correlates well with both hearing

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damage and annoyance from noise. A weighting will be assumed throughout this report unless otherwise specified.

Composite measures of noise, such as the equivalent continuous sound level (Leq) and the day-night average sound level (DNL) incorporate A weighting, (The mathematical notation for DNL is Ldn.) these levels constitute sound energy averages over given periods of time, the DNL incorporates a 10-dB nighttime penalty from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am, meaning that events occurring during that time are counted as 10 dB higher than they really are. A variant of the DNL that is used in California (and Europe) is the community noise equivalent level (CNEL), which incorporates a 5-dB penalty for evening noise events, as well as the 10-dB nighttime penalty (California Code of Regulations, 1990).

For more than a decade, both the DNL and the simple Leq have been used extensively for assessing the impact of aircraft/airport noise. Recently, however, communities have expressed dissatisfaction with these metrics when used to regulate noise (Wesler, 1990). Metrics that employ averaging fail to describe the disturbance arising from single events, especially low-flying aircraft, unexpected or newly occurring flights, or flights occurring in areas where solitude is at a premium. The sound exposure level (SEL), an event's sound level normalized to one second, is gaining popularity as a supplement to the DNL and the Leq for characterizing single events.

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IV. Noise in America

A. Population Trends

The U.S. population has increased an average of 25 million with each census since 1950. According to the World Almanac (1991), the population in 1980 was 226 million and approximately 250 million in 1990. This reflects an increase of nearly 11 percent over the decade, or slightly more than 1 percent per year. Presently, 77 percent of the U.S. population lives in the nation's 283 designated metropolitan areas, and the rate of growth in these areas is twice that of nonmetropolitan areas (Bryant, 1991).

Not surprisingly, EPA research indicates that noise levels in communities is directly related to the population density (EPA, 1974b).(1) Because the noise in urban areas generally exceeds that of suburban and rural areas, it is not unreasonable to assume that noise in the U.S. is increasing at least in proportion to the increase in urbanization and more rapidly than the growth of the general population. In addition, noise sources appear to be multiplying at a faster pace than the population.

B. Noise Sources

Figure 1, from EPA's simplified version of the Levels Document, Protective Noise Levels, shows the range of sound levels for some common noise sources (EPA, 1978). Most leading noise sources will fall into the following categories: road traffic, aircraft, railroads, construction, industry, noise in buildings, and consumer products.

1. Road traffic noise

In its Levels Document (1974), EPA estimated that road traffic noise was the leading source of community noise. EPA's contractors found that to be true in 1981 (EPA, 1981), and there is little reason to believe otherwise today.

Truck transportation, as a convenient and economical means of moving raw materials and consumer goods from place to place, is growing at a faster pace than the general population. For example, a total (2) of 33.6 million trucks there registered in the U.S. in 1980. That number grew to 45.5 million in 1989, an increase of about 35 percent (American Trucking Assoc., 1991).

Noise from the motors and exhaust systems of large trucks provides the major portion of highway noise impact, and provides a potential noise hazard to the driver as well.(3) In addition, noise from the interaction of tires with the roadway is generated by trucks, buses, and private autos.

In the city, the main sources of traffic noise are the motors and exhaust systems of autos, smaller trucks, buses, and motorcycles. This type of noise can be augmented by narrow streets and tall buildings, which produce a "canyon" in which traffic noise reverberates.

(1) The day-night average sound level appears to be proportional to the log of population density in people per square mile (EPA.1974b).
(2) The total number of trucks registered includes personal-use as well as commercial trucks of all weight classes.
(3) According to Reinhart (1991) the most common complaint about truck noise is related to problems caused by tampering with the mufflers of trucks using compression brakes. About 5 percent of the heavy trucks surveyed by Reinhart and his colleagues had no functioning muffler, despite the existence of antitampering laws.

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Link to Figure 1
Typical Range of Common Sounds

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2. Aircraft noise

Air traffic also appears to be increasing more rapidly than the U.S. population. In 1980, U.S. scheduled airlines flew approximately 255.2 billion passenger miles and 5.7 billion cargo (ton) miles. By 1990, these figures there 457.9 billion and 10.6 billion, respectively (Air Transport Assoc., 1991a). This represents an increase of 79 percent in passenger mileage, and 86 percent in air height mileage. Air cargo traffic has grown particularly rapidly in the last five years, and will probably continue that trend over the next decade.

By 1989, the quieter "Stage III" airplanes comprised nearly 40 percent of the domestic fleet (Air Transport Assoc, 1991b). By the year 2004, all of the noisier Stage II aircraft must be phased out (Airport Noise and Capacity Act, 1990). This requirement should promote a quieter environment around airports, but the growth of air transportation and the pressing need for airport expansion threatens to offset the benefits of the quieter aircraft.

Nowadays, the problem of low-flying military aircraft has added a new dimension to community annoyance, as the nation seeks to improve its "nap-of-the-earth" warfare capabilities. In addition, the issue of aircraft operations over national parks, wilderness areas, and other areas previously unaffected by aircraft noise has claimed national attention over recent years (Fidell, 1990; Cantoni, 1991; Weiner, 1990; Mouat, 1990).

3. Noise from railroads

The noise from locomotive engines, horns and whistles, and switching and shunting operations in rail yards can impact neighboring communities and railroad workers. For example, rail car retarders can produce a high-frequency, high-level screech that can reach peak levels of 120 dB at a distance of 100 feet (EPA, 1974), which translates to levels as high as 138 or 140 dB at the railroad worker's ear.

Unlike truck and air transportation, however, rail transportation does not appear to be increasing. According to the Association of American Railroads, the railroad industry loaded 22. 1 million freight cars in 1988, down slightly from 22.6 million in 1980 (AAR, 1991).

4. Construction noise

The noise from construction of highways, city streets, and buildings is a major contributor to the urban scene. Construction noise sources include pneumatic hammers, air compressors, bull dozers, loaders, dump trucks (and their back-up signals), and pavement breakers. The construction industry has done very well over recent years with a value-added GNP of $97.9 billion in 1977, increasing to $247.7 billion in 1989 (Dept. of Commerce, 1991), an increase of about 153 percent. The number of workers employed in construction grew from 4.3 million in 1980 to about 5.2 million in 1990, an increase of nearly 21 percent (BLS, 1991a).

5. Noise in industry

Although industrial noise is one of the less prevalent community noise problems, neighbors of noisy manufacturing plants can be disturbed by sources such as fans, motors, and compressors mounted on the outside of buildings. Interior noise can also be transmitted to the community through open windows and doors, and even through building walls. These interior noise sources have significant impacts on industrial workers, among whom noise-induced hearing loss is unfortunately common.

The size of the U.S. manufacturing industry has not grown significantly over the last decade. Although the industrial. GNP increased from $673.9 billion in 1980 to $969.6 billion in 1990 (in terms of constant dollars) (BLS, 1991b), the workforce has declined from slightly more than 20

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million to about 19 million during that period (BLS, 1991c). Consequently, industrially-generated community noise is probably no greater than it was in 1980.

From the worker's perspective the industrial noise problem is still very serious. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cut back on the enforcement of occupational noise standards and has allowed the substitution of hearing protection devices in lieu of engineering controls in many cases (OSHA, 1986). However, it is difficult to know whether noise levels in industry are increasing or decreasing because no comprehensive survey has been performed since the 1976 survey performed by Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. (BBN, 1976).

6. Noise in buildings

Apartment dwellers are often annoyed by noise in their homes, especially when the building is not well designed and constructed. In this case, internal building noise from plumbing, boilers, generators, air conditioners, and fans, can be audible and annoying. Improperly insulated walls and ceilings can reveal the sound of amplified music, voices, footfalls, and noisy activities from neighboring units. External noise from emergency vehicles, traffic, refuse collection, and other city noises can be a problem for urban residents, especially when windows are open or insufficiently glazed.

Wetherill (1987) reports that although the lack of soundproofing is the most frequent environmental complaint of apartment dwellers, the knowledge to solve these problems is not being applied. In fact, the quality of construction is steadily declining, and the noise problems are getting worse (Wetherill, 1991).

7. Noise from consumer products

Certain household equipment, such as vacuum cleaners and some kitchen appliances, have been and continue to be noisemakers, although their contribution to the daily noise dose is usually not very large. Added to this list would be yard maintenance equipment, such as lawn mowers and snow blowers, which can, at least, cause disharmony with one's neighbors, and pother shop tools, which can be hazardous to hearing if used for sufficient periods of time.

One example of a fairly new product is the gasoline-pothered leaf blower, with average A-weighted sound levels at the operator's position of 103.6 dB, and maximum levels of 110-l12 dB (Clark, 1991). In an extensive review of nonoccupational noise exposures, Davis et al. (1985) report that the manufacturers of household devices have been reluctant to release sound level information. Consequently, it could be difficult to assess the magnitude of the problem and the extent to which noise levels are increasing or decreasing.

Residents of suburban and rural areas are sometimes disturbed by recreational noise sources, such as off-road vehicles, high-pothered motor boats, and snowmobiles. Some of these sources, such as snowmobiles, are not as noisy as they there more than a decade ago, due to attention to the problem by the manufacturers and their trade associations. Others are no less noisy, and possibly more so because noise seems to be generic to the sport. Example would be motorcycle and car racing, and events like "tractor pulls."

In fact, the allure of noisy recreational activities seems to be considerably greater now than it was a decade or so ago. The technology of sound reproduction has advancer to the point where loudspeakers can faithfully reproduce music and other sounds at levels well above 120 dB. Sporting events use giant digital "applause meters" to measure and display enthusiasm for the more popular team. The extreme in car stereo technology is now the "boom car", with sound levels exceeding 140 dB.(4) Activities like aerobic exercising and ice skating, as well as disco dancing, are accompanied by

(4) The International Auto Sound Challenge Association sponsors contests and gives the most points to contestants whom speakers produce the highest sound pressure levels, up to 140 dB. However, levels above that merit no more than 140 points.

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amplified music played at high sound levels. After summarizing the results of 16. studies of discotheques and rock concerts Clark (1991) reported the geometric mean of the measured sound levels as 103.4 dB. The trend in noise levels for these kinds of activities is definitely upward.

One of the most serious sources of recreational noise is sport shooting, where peak sound pressure levels at the ear can range from about 144 dB up to more than 170 dB (5) (Odess, 1972). In his analysis of this literature, Clark (1991) cites estimates of the number of people responding positively to questions about hunting or target shooting. These estimates range from 14 percent of the general population in Scandinavia and the U.K. (Axelsson et al., 1981; Davis et al., 1985) to nearly 50 percent in the Canadian workforce (Chung et al., 1981), which Clark found to be consistent with estimates from U.S. industry. In a population of rural schoolchildren, 45 out of 47 boys and 2 out of 21 girls reported having used guns (Kramer and Wood, 1982).

A subcategory of consumer product noise that deserves mention is noisy toys. A few toys, such as firecrackers, snappers, and cap pistols have been part of the adventurous child's experience for generations. The general assumption is that these toys do not pose a hazard when used occasionally and located at a sufficient distance from the ear (6). Nowadays, there is a large variety of noisy toys, thanks to the availability of improved technology. Many of them mimic adult noisemakers, such as amplified toy guitars, child-shed vacuum cleaners, and miniature pother saws. Some of these toys generate quite high levels of sound. For example, a baby's squeeze toy (Fay, 1991) and the battery operated siren of a toy police car have both been measured at 110 dB (7).

In a recent report on noisy toys, Leroux and Laroche (1991) cite studies showing A-weighted noise levels for a toy motor at 107 dB and a child's rattle at 99-100 dB (LNE, 1973). Current Canadian legislation limits the sound output of toys to "one hundred decibels measured at the distance that the product ordinarily would be from the ear of the child using it..." (Act, 1969), but Leroux and Laroche propose that this limit be lowered to an A-weighted level of 75 dB.

C. Numbers of People Exposed to Noise

The fact that people are variously exposed to noise is not surprising. Considering that decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, however, the magnitude of these variations can be enormous. For example, the average noise level outside an urban apartment can be 1,000 times more intense than in a rural residential neighborhood. Fortunately, this difference will be perceived more like an eight-fold rather than a thousand-fold increase. Figure 2, from EPA's document Protective Noise Levels, shows examples of outdoor day-night average sound levels measured at various locations (EPA, 1978).

In 1974, EPA estimated that nearly 100 million Americans lived in areas where the daily average noise levels exceeded its identified safe DNL of 55 dB (EPA, 1974a). Figure 3, from EPA's Levels Document, shows the residential noise environment of the U.S. population as a function of the exterior DNL, with separate curves for the freeway and aircraft increments.

(5) A-weighted level. of these weapons would measure somewhat lower, with levels for .22 caliber rifles at about 132-139 dB and shotguns at 150-165 dB. (See Clark, 1991)
(6) Certain European studies, however, have reported as many as 1 percent to 3.7 percent of teenage children suffer hearing losses caused by impulsive noise from toys (Gjaevenes, 1967; Moe, 1966). Noise from cap guns, for example, can exceed peak sound pressure levels of 140 dB (Gjaevenes, 1966; Hodge and McCommons, 1966; Marshall and Brandt, 1973; all as cited by Leroux and Laroche,
(7) New York audiologist Thomas Fay has measured the noise levels of a variety of children's toys. In doing so he places the sound level meter's microphone quite close to the noise source (from 2 inches to 1/2 inch away), based on his observations of the children at play. (Personal communication, April 1991).

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Link to Figure 2
Examples of Outdoor Day-Night Average Sound Levels in dB Measured at Various Locations

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A few years later EPA contracted with the consulting firm Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) to develop more detailed estimates. The resulting report, Noise in America, includes a breakdown according to noise exposure source (EPA, 1981). Table I gives the estimated number of Americans exposed to traffic; aircraft, construction, rail, and industrial noise for various DNLs from 55 dB to 80 dB. The authors note that there will be some overlap among populations exposed to different sources, so the numbers across categories are not additive. The far right column represents the total estimated number of people exposed to the combined sources. Although the authors do not give an estimate for the number of people exposed above Ldn 55 dB, another authority puts it at 138 million at that time (Eldred, 1990).

These estimates do not represent the results of a national survey. Instead, the authors used data and models available to EPA and BBN at the time. Because of this, some categories of noise exposure are likely to be more accurate than others. They did, however, represent the best available estimates at the time, and because no efforts have been made to update them, they are the best estimates available today.

D. Summary: Noise in America

It is safe to assume that noise in communities is increasing. Noise levels are directly related to population density, and the urban population is increasing at twice the pace of the nonurban population. In addition, the last decade has seen rapid growth in air transportation, trucking, and the construction industries, indicating that noise levels from these sources has most likely increased. The fact that some of these sources have been and continue to be quieted (especially new generations of trucks and aircraft) should mitigate this increase, but the extent of this mitigation will remain unknown until some sort of national survey is performed. Noise from construction continues to be a problem, and it appears that noise inside buildings as well as noise from recreational activities and consumer products is on the rise. Estimates of the number of people exposed to noise at various levels are now somewhat outdated.

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Link to Figure 3:
Residential Noise Environment of the National Population As a Function of Exterior Day-Night Average Sound Level


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Table 1:
Summary of U.S. Population Exposed to Various Day-Night Average Sound Levels (or higher) From Noise Sources in the Community. (1) From Noise in America (EPA, 1981, pp. 10 and 15)


Estimated Number (in Millions) of People in Each Noise Category




Construction (3)















































(1) DNL values are yearly averages, outdoors
(2) Note that there is some overlap among populations exposed to different noise sources. For example, some of the 96.8 million people exposed to Ldn 55 dB and above from traffic noise are also exposed to aircraft noise.
(3) Construction estimates include both residential and nonresidential exposure.

*Distribution of total exposed to all sources starts at Ldn 58 dB since the analysis involves combining distributions exposed to 55 dB and above.


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V. Effects of Noise

A. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is one of the most obvious and easily quantified effects of excessive exposure to noise. Its progression, however, is insidious, in that it usually develops slowly over a long period of time, and the impairment can reach the handicapping stage before an individual is aware of what has happened. While the losses are temporary at first, they become permanent after continued exposure, and there is no medical treatment to counteract the effect. When combined with presbycusis, hearing loss naturally occurring with the aging process, the result is a premature impairment that grows inexorably with age.

According to the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS, 1991), some 10 million of the estimated 21 million Americans with hearing impairments owe their losses to noise exposure (as cited in Carney, 1991). The study goes on to say that it is unclear whether the incidence of hearing impairment has risen in recent years because the necessary studies have not been conducted.

1. Extent of noise-induced hearing loss from environmental sources

Although the major cause of noise-induced hearing loss is occupational, substantial damage can be caused by nonoccupational sources. In addition to the frequently-blamed sources of loud music and shooting, noise-induced hearing loss has been noted in the children of farm families, presumably from the frequent use of tractors (e.g., Broste et al., 1979); general aviation pilots because of the high noise levels emitted by piston aircraft (Anon., 1982); and users of earlier generations of cordless telephones because of the placement of the ring mechanism in the earpiece (Orchik et al., 1985 and 1987).

The prevailing notion among parents is that the hearing threshold levels of children are worse than they used to be because of exposure to loud music. Actually, a recent national survey of 38,000 school children found better hearing threshold levels than 30 years ago, but blames the discrepancies on the sampling methods used in the earlier study and the conversion from an older to a nether zero reference level (Lundeen, 1991). There is, however, evidence that the hearing of some young people is being affected by noisy leisure time activities (Axelsson et al., 1987).

Loud music in particular appears to be the cause of hearing impairment and tinnitus in rock musicians. Such luminaries as Pete Townshend and Ted Nugent (8) have acquired substantial hearing losses and are now campaigning for hearing conservation (Murphy, 1989). Some studies point to a hearing hazard for attendees as well (see in Clark, 1991; Clark and Bohne, 1986; Danenberg et al.,1987).

As mentioned above, probably the greatest nonoccupational hazard to hearing comes from sport shooting. Clark (1991) cites studies of industrial workers by Chung et al. (1981), Johnson and Riffle (1982), and Prosser et al. (1988), showing significantly greater hearing losses among sport-shooters than among their nonshooting counterparts. These losses are almost always characterized by worse hearing in the left ear than the right.

The contribution from nonoccupational sources is called "sociocusis" (a contraction of "socioacusis"). Evidence from primitive societies suggests that the absence of sociocusis explains the large differences in hearing threshold level between these populations and those of the "civilized" nations (Rosen, 1962). Sociocusis, occupational hearing loss, and presbycusis contribute in various

(8) According to Nugent, who has worn an earplug in his right ear since 1967: "My left ear is there just to balance my face, because it doesn't work at all." (Murphy 1989)

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proportion to an individual's total hearing impairment. While the contribution of each source may be less than significant, the combination of all three can be enough to produce a handicapping condition. As longevity in the U.S. population increases, the toll of noise-induced hearing loss will become increasingly evident (Carney, 1991).

2. The handicap of noise-induced hearing loss

Vowel sounds tend to be low in frequency and high in sound energy, while the consonants are much higher in frequency and have considerably less amplitude. It also happens that consonants provide the primary intelligibility to speech. Because noise damages the ear's ability to perceive high-frequency sounds much earlier and more severely than the low-frequency sounds, individuals with noise-induced hearing loss are at a particular disadvantage in understanding speech.

Individuals with early noise-induced hearing loss often think that other people no longer speak dearly. They soon begin to notice that they have difficulty understanding speech when there is noise in the background, and in groups of people, and that it is hard to identify which person is talking. As the hearing loss progresses, these individuals avoid social occasions and situations where they must listen at a distance, like church and theater. The eventual result can be loneliness and isolation.

3. The study of noise-induced hearing loss

Noise damages the delicate sensory cells of the inner ear, the cochlea. This process can be studied in the laboratory by inducing temporary shifts in hearing threshold level in humans. Over recent years the preferred method of investigation is to produce temporary and permanent threshold shifts in animals, and to study the resulting physiological and anatomical changes in the cochlea, as well as shifts in hearing threshold level. The laboratory allows for strict control of noise level and duration, but the durations are usually relatively short because of the time and expense involved. Also there is some controversy over the extent to which the results can be generalized to humans.

Much of the recent laboratory effort in noise research has focused on the structural and functional basis of noise-induced hearing loss, which has been greatly aided by the electron microscope. Investigators have identified the sensory cell's stereocilia and the rootlets which anchor them as the auditory system's most vulnerable components with respect to noise exposure (Libermnan, 1990).

Field studies of noise-exposed workers avoid the problems of species generalization, and the exposure durations can be over many decades. They are usually cross-sectional studies, however, meaning that the current hearing threshold levels are related to noise exposures that have been experienced over many years. Although the current noise measurements may be valid, their validity over prior years usually has to be assumed without benefit of precise data.

4. Risk of hearing impairment from continuous noise

The methods and results of the major field studies of continuous noise exposure conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s remain unchallenged. Examples are the studies of Burns and Robinson (1970), Baughn (1973), Passchier-Vermeer (1968), and the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, 1973). Data from these studies have been used by various organizations to estimate the risk of hearing impairment over a working lifetime of exposure to noise. These types of studies have also been used by the EPA to estimate the hazard of nonoccupational noise (Guignard, 1973; Johnson, 1973; EPA, 1973a). The data cited above of Burns and Robinson, Baughn, and Passchier-Vermeer went into EPA's identification of a yearly average exposure level of 70 dB as the safe level, which could be experienced over a lifetime (EPA, 1974a) (9).

(9) The 70-dB 24-hour average sound level can be interpreted as a 75-dB 8-hour average sound level plus an average sound level during the other 16 hours of less than 60 dB (see EPA's Levels Document, p.29, footnote d).

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A new international standard (ISO, 1989), which is based mainly on the data of Passchier-Vermeer and Burns and Robinson, contains formulas for assessing the risk of noise-induced hearing impairment and handicap: using either a highly screened (for nonoccupational hearing loss) or an unscreened population as a control group. The data and analyses found in these major studies have not been seriously challenged, and remain in use today.

5. Varying and intermittent noise

There has been some debate over the best rule for combining noise level and duration to assess the damaging effects of noise, especially varying and intermittent noise. This relationship is often called the doubling rate, or nowadays, the exchange rate. The EPA, as well as most other federal agencies (and most European countries, the United Kingdom, some Canadian provinces) use the equal-energy rule, which incorporates a 3-dB exchange rate. OSHA uses the 5-dB exchange rate, and the U.S. Air Force, uses 4 dB. None of these rules makes any provisions for the temporal order of sounds, although the 5-dB exchange rate supposedly represents a simplification of criteria that take a certain number of intermittencies into account. (10)

Investigations of the relationship between noise level and duration have been conducted over recent years using laboratory animals. The results have confirmed the validity of the equal energy (3-dB) rule for single exposures to continuous noise (Bohne and Pearse, 1982; Ward and Turner, 1982), or when the exposures are broken up into 8-hour, or even 1-hour "workdays", 5 days per week, so long as the sound energy is equivalent (Ward, 1983). There is, however, some benefit to intermittent quiet periods (Ward and Turner, 1982), during which the ear can recover from small, temporary hearing losses. For this reason EPA has adjusted its identified safe level upward by 5 dB (11) since most environmental noise exposures are intermittent in nature. EPA's use of the equal-energy rule and the 5-dB adjustment have not been seriously challenged.

6. Impulse noise

The effects of impulse noise have been studied extensively over recent years, but there is less agreement on this topic than there is for continuous and intermittent noise. Although there was consensus favoring the 3-dB rule at a 1981 international meeting in England (von Gierke et al., 1981), actual dose-response relationships are still elusive. The effects of impulse noise do not always follow the 3-dB rule, in that temporal pattern, waveform, and rise time can affect the growth of hearing loss, despite constancy of sound energy (Henderson and Hamernik, 1986).

Frequency also has some bearing on the damage caused by impulse noise, in that low-frequency impulses produce significantly less damage than sounds in the mid-to-high-frequency range (Price, 1983). The ear appears to be most susceptible to impulses with peaks around 4,000 Hz (Price, 1989). Also, there may be a critical level, above which the ear is considerably more at risk because of a change in the response mechanism. On the basis of his research, Price (1981) has suggested a critical level of 145 dB, with a standard deviation of 8 dB.

7. Susceptibility

Evidence from field studies indicates that men incur more hearing loss than women from comparable noise exposures (Burns and Robinson, 1970; Berger et al., 1978; Royster et al., 1980), and that Caucasians appear to be more susceptible than Blacks to noise-induced hearing loss (Royster et al., 1980). Other factors, such as age, preexposure hearing threshold level, general health, and use of alcohol, have not yet proved to be reliable predictors of susceptibility (Ward, 1986), although


(10) The 5-dB rule does not necessarily provide for intermittencies because it allows uninterrupted exposures to continuous noise at high levels. See Suter 1983.
(11) The identified safe level of 70 dB reflects the incorporation of the 5-dB adjustment.

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there is some indication that the use of tobacco may increase susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss (Barone, et al., 1987; Stark, et al., 1988).

8. Interactions with other agents

Noise can interact with drugs and industrial agents to produce additive or even synergistic effects on hearing. As expected, the higher the levels of noise and the greater the dose of the other agent, the greater will be the resulting hearing loss. The ototoxic properties of certain drugs, most notably the aminoglycoside antibiotics (the "mycin" drugs), are heightened by exposure to noise. Numerous studies of kanamycin plus noise exposure have revealed additive and some synergistic results (Humes, 1984). High doses of salicylates (aspirin) accompanied by noise exposure can produce temporary hearing losses (McFadden and Plattsmier, 1983), but permanent losses do not seem to occur. Cisplatin, used in cancer chemotherapy, is known to be toxic to the auditory system, and has been shown to interact significantly with none exposure (Boettcher et al., 1989).

A variety of industrial agents, which can be potent neurotoxins, have been shown to be capable of producing hearing loss (Fechter, 1989). These agents include heavy melds, such as lead and mercury, organic solvents, such as toluene, xylene, and carbon disulfide, and an asphyxiant, carbon monoxide.

9. Hearing protectors

As its first (and only) labeling regulation, EPA promulgated a regulation for labeling the attenuation of hearing protection devices (EPA, 1979). The standard required manufacturers to subject their hearing protectors to specific laboratory tests, and to publish a "Noise Reduction
Rating" (NRA) on the product's package. The NRA was subsequently adopted by OSHA in its hearing conservation amendment, which required employers to use it in assessing the adequacy of hearing protectors for given noise environments (OSHA, 1981 and 1983). Recent research shows that the NRA greatly overestimates the noise reduction to be achieved by these devices in actual field use. (12) These kinds of findings have led to the formation of a new ANSI working group to investigate alternatives to the current NRA (Berger et al. 1990), and the recommendation that EPA revise its existing labeling regulation (Berger, 1991; Stewart, 1991).

10. Summary: Noise-induced hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is probably the most well-defined of the effects of noise. Predictions of hearing loss from various levels of continuous and varying noise have been extensively researched and are no longer controversial. Some discussion still remains on the extent to which intermittencies ameliorate the adverse effects on hearing and the exact nature of dose-response relationships from impulse noise. It appears that some members of the population are somewhat more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss than others, and there is a growing body of evidence that certain drugs and chemicals can enhance the auditory hazard from noise.

Although the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss from industrial populations is more extensively documented, there is growing evidence of hearing loss from leisure time activities, especially from sport shooting, but also from loud music, noisy toys, and other manifestations of our "civilized" society. Because of the increase in exposure to recreational noise, the hazard from these sources needs to be more thoroughly evaluated. Finally, the recent evidence that hearing protective devices do not perform in actual use the way laboratory tests would imply, lends support to the need for reevaluating current methods of assessing hearing protector attenuation.

(12) In a summary of 10 studies, Berger (1983) shows that most hearing protectors in the field provide only one-third to one-half the attenuation that they do in the laboratory.

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B. Interference With Communication

Noise can mask important sounds and disrupt communication between individuals in a variety of settings. This process can cause anything from a slight irritation to a serious safety hazard involving an accident or even a fatality because of the failure to hear the warning sounds of imminent danger. Such warning sounds can include the approach of a rapidly moving motor vehicle, or the sound of malfunctioning machinery. For example, Aviation Safety (Anon., 1982), states that hundreds of accident reports have many "say again" exchanges between pilots and controllers, although neither side reports anything wrong with the radios.

Noise can disrupt face-to-face and telephone conversation, and the enjoyment of radio and television in the home. It can also disrupt effective communication between teachers and pupils in schools, and can cause fatigue and vocal strain in those who need to communicate in spite of the noise. Interference with communication has proved to be one of the most important components of noise-related annoyance (EPA, 1974a).

In its Levels Document, EPA determined that a yearly average day-night sound level of 45 dB would permit adequate speech communication in the home, and a DNL of 55 dB would permit normal communication outdoors at a distance of about 3 meters. (13) These levels also apply to hospitals and educational facilities. Higher average noise levels would be satisfactory for certain nonresidential spaces, such as commercial and industrial facilities, and inside transportation, depending on the degree to which speech communication is critical. Research over the last 20 years has expanded and refined EPA's criteria development in this area, but has not generated any major changes.

1. Prediction of speech interference

Methods of predicting the amount of speech that can be communicated in various noise backgrounds have been available for decades. Probably the most popular and respected method is the articulation index (AI) (French and Steinberg, 1947), which requires the measurement or estimation of the spectrum level of both speech and noise in 20 contiguous bands. Over the past 2 decades investigators have suggested adjustments to the AI for l13-octave bands, reverberation time, various vocal efforts, etc., and more recently for various degrees of hearing impairment (Humes, et al., 1986 and 1987).

The speech interference level (SIL) (Beranek, 1954) provides a quick method for estimating the distance at which communication can occur for different levels of vocal effort. The current method involves measuring octave-band sound pressure levels at 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 4,000 Hz and referring to a chart to determine the die potential communication distance. The basic chart has been expanded to include such parameters as a broader range of voice levels and provisions for room reverberation (Webster, 1983). Additions to both the AI and the SIL have been proposed by Lazarus (1990), who offers modifications and extensions to account for strain on the part of both talker and listener, and the wearing of hearing protectors.

Another popular method to predict speech communication in a variety of conditions, the speech transmission index (STI), has been developed by a Netherlands research group (Houtgast, 1980; Houtgast and Steeneken, 1983). The STI takes into account room volume and reverberation time, in addition to speech and none levels, and distance between talker and listener. A more recent outgrowth, the rapid speech transmission index (RASTI), represents a simplified version of the STI intended for field use, and is available in an instrument conforming to an international standard (IEC, 1987).

(13) These levels represent EPA's identification of safe levels of environmental noise to protect the public health and welfare against all adverse effects of noise with the exception of hearing loss.

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Finally the sound level meter's A-weighting network can be successfully used to predict speech interference levels. It is easy to use, available on virtually all sound level meters, and effective when the noise spectra are not complex.

2. Criteria for speech and warning signals

In addition to the classic work of Beranek and his colleagues (Beranek et al., 1971), Beranek has recently refined the traditional curves to account for the annoyance due to low-frequency "rumble" (Beranek, 1989). New criteria for determining acceptable background levels of noise in rooms are also offered by Lazarus (1986a, 1986b, 1987, and 1990). Lazarus includes in his criteria a variety of parameters such as: type of room, type of communication, communication distance, vocal effort, quality of speech intelligibility, AI, communication strain, listener's hearing sensitivity, and the use of hearing protectors.

Guidelines for audible warning signals have been developed by Patterson (1982). These guidelines, which there originally created for civil aircraft, there later adapted to helicopters and even stationary workplaces like hospitals (Patterson, 1985; Rood et al., 1985). Another set of guidelines for acoustic warning signals has been developed by Lazarus and Hoge (1986), and are based on the compatibility of signal type with various desired or undesired situations.

Although criteria have not yet been developed for speech recognition involving nonnative listeners, experiments by Florentine (1985) and Nabelek (1983) indicate that these individuals need more favorable listening conditions (less background noise and reverberation) than their native- language counterparts. These findings have implications for air traffic control systems.

3. The effect of hearing protectors on speech and warning signal perception

Hearing protectors attenuate both noise and the desired signal by equal amounts in a given frequency band, reducing both to levels where the ear is less likely to distort. This process often improves speech recognition when the level of background noise exceeds 80 to 90 dB. However, because hearing protectors usually provide considerably more attenuation in the high frequencies than in the low frequencies, listeners who have high-frequency hearing losses are at a disadvantage. Many speech sounds and some warning signals will be attenuated beyond the range of audibility. This is especially true of individuals whose losses exceed an average of 30 dB at the audiometric frequencies 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz (Lindeman, 1976). A potential solution for this problem lies in some newly developed hearing protectors with flat attenuation across the frequency spectrum (Allen and Berger, 1990; Killion et. al., 1988). One type of these protectors has already become popular with orchestral musicians (Killion et al., 1988) and even some rock musicians (Cohen, 1990).

Individuals tend to speak more softly when they wear hearing protectors, and consequently, speech communication is degraded when both talker and listener wear these devices (Hoermann et al,, 1984), Hearing protectors also interfere with the localization of sounds in space, and this is especially true of the ability to localize sounds in the vertical plane while wearing ear muffs (Noble, 1981). Both ear plugs and ear muffs cause these types of problems, but it appears that they are more pronounced with ear muffs (Howell and Martin, 1975; Abel et al., 1982). These findings can have serious implications for safety in some circumstances.

4. Scholastic performance

Noise can disrupt communication in the classroom to the extent that the instructional method used in schools close to airports is sometimes nicknamed " jet pause" teaching. Cohen and Weinstein (1981) have reviewed several studies, which, after controlling for socioeconomic factors, indicate that the academic performance of children in quiet schools is better than that of children in noisy schools.

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For example, elementary school children on the side of a school facing train tracks. performed more poorly on a reading achievement test than children in classrooms on the quiet side of the school (Bronzaft and McCarthy,:1975).(14) Cohen and Weinstein also discuss research showing that skills, such as auditory discrimination and reading achievement can be adversely affected when children live in noisy circumstances, even though their schools may be no noisier than average. These latter studies indicate that interference with communication in the classroom is not the only process at work here. Possible additional explanations include adverse effects on children's information processing strategies and their feelings of personal control (15) (Cohen and Weinstein, 1981).

5. Summary: Interference with communication

Interference with speech communication and other sounds is one of the most salient components of noise-induced annoyance. The resulting disruption can constitute anything from an annoyance to a serious safety hazard, depending on the circumstance.

Research over the past 2 decades has expanded and refined methods for predicting communication interference, but has not produced any major changes. Numerous adjustments have been suggested for the AI, the SIL has been modified and refined, and a new predictive method, the STI has been added. Criteria for determining acceptable background levels in rooms have also been expanded and refined, and progress has been made on the development of effective acoustic warning signals.

It is now dear that hearing protection devices can interfere with the perception of speech and warning signals, especially when the listener is hearing impaired, both talker and listener wear the devices, and when wearers attempt to locate a signal's source.

Noise can interfere with the educational process, and the result has been dubbed "jet-pause teaching" around some of the nation's noisier airports, but railroad and traffic noise can also produce scholastic decrements.

C. Effects of Noise on Sleep

Noise is one of the most common forms of sleep disturbance, and sleep disturbance is a critical component of noise-related annoyance. A study used by EPA in preparing the Levels Document showed that sleep interference was the most frequently cited activity disrupted by surface vehicle noise (BBN, 1971). Aircraft none can also cause sleep disruption, especially in recent years with the escalation of nighttime operations by the air cargo industry. When sleep disruption becomes chronic, its adverse effects on health and well-being are well-known.

1. Assessing sleep disturbance

Noise can cause the sleeper to awaken repeatedly and to report poor sleep quality the next day, but noise can also produce reactions of which the individual is unaware. These reactions include changes from heavier to lighter stages of sleep, reductions in "rapid eye movement" (REM) sleep, increases in body movements during the night, changes in cardiovascular responses, and mood changes and performance decrements the next day. The accuracy and efficiency with which these effects are measured has been greatly assisted by the use of contemporary computers. The most popular measurement tool nowadays is electro-encephalography, but other methods, such as

(14) Bronzaft reported that in 1978 the city of New York reduced the noise of the elevated train and installed acoustical insulation in the affected classrooms, providing a total reduction in the A-weighted noise level of 6 to 8 dB (Bronzaft, 1981). By 1981, there was essentially no difference. in reading achievement between students on the two sides of the school for the classroom studied.
(15) See also the discussion of noise, performance, and behavior in sections D.4, and D.5. below.

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electrocardiography, electromyography, and electrooculography are also used, as well as clinical observation, self-assessment surveys, and accelerometry to measure the motion of the bed frame.

As a result of many years of research on the effects of noise on sleep, it is clear that intermittent and impulsive noise is more disturbing than continuous noise of equivalent energy, and that meaningful sounds are more likely to produce sleep disruption than sounds with neutral content. Also, older people are more likely to have their sleep disturbed by noise than younger people. In fact, children appear to be about 10 dB less sensitive to noise-induced sleep disruption than adults (Eberhardt, 1990). Sleep disturbance from noise tends to be greater in the early hours of the morning, when individuals spend more time in lighter sleep stages, and this is particularly true of the elderly.

2. Criteria for sleep interference

In the Levels Document EPA identified an indoor DNL of 45 dB, which translates to a nighttime average sound level of 35 dB, as necessary to protect against sleep interference. However, consensus on the levels of noise that can be tolerated without sleep disruption is incomplete at this time. In an attempt to develop a quantitative model for predicting noise-induced sleep interference, Pearsons et al., (1989) reviewed and analyzed 21 studies. However, the authors there unable to derive dose-response relationships from these studies because of large discrepancies between studies conducted in the laboratory and those conducted in the field.

In a recent review of the noise and sleep research, Griefahn (1990) recommends that the nighttime average sound level be kept below 45 dB in the sleeper's quarters. She cites research by Eberhardt (1987 and 1990; Eberhardt et al., 1987;) and Vallet et al., (1976 and 1990) showing self- reported adverse effects from continual road traffic when the average sound level is 40 dB and physiological responses at an average level of 37 dB. For intermittent road traffic noise, maximum recommended levels for single events (as opposed to average levels) range from 45 to 68 dB, depending on the investigation (Griefahn, 1990). Vallet et al. (1990), recommend maximum outside levels of 65 dB, which, of course, relies on some attenuation by the residence. Griefahn also points out that higher maximum levels can be tolerated if the ambient noise level is not very low, and that the difference between single events and the ambient level should not exceed 8 to 10 dB.

3. After-effects and habituation

Numerous recent investigations have revealed after-effects due to noisy nights. Ohrstrom (1983) found mood changes on the day following nights when the average sound level was as low as 35 dB. Adverse effects on performance, such as increased reaction time, have also been measured (Jurriens et al., 1983), and it appears that older peoples' next day performance is more adversely affected by noise than that of younger people (Griefahn and Gros, 1983).

Although people often believe they get used to nighttime noise, physiological tests point to the contrary. Studies have shown that while the subjective response improves with time, cardiovascular responses remain unchanged (Muzet, 1983). Vallet et al. (1990) conclude that habituation is not complete, even after 5 years of exposure to noise.

4. Summary: Effects of noise on sleep

Noise-induced sleep interference is one of the critical components of community annoyance. It can produce short-term adverse effects, such as mood changes and decrements in task performance the next day, with the possibility of more serious effects on health and well-being if it continues over long periods.

EPA's identified indoor DNL of 45 dB has not been seriously challenged over the past decade, but consensus in this area is lacking. One problem is that different experimenters tend to use a

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variety of descriptors (DNL, Leq, and maximum single-event levels) and a variety of methods for evaluating the effects (EEG, EKG, self-report, etc.). Perhaps one reason for the lack of clear-cut criteria is that this a complex area to research, requiring considerable time and expense. Another is, of course, a need for more field studies in this area.

D. Effects on Performance and Behavior

EPA did not use the literature on the effects of noise on performance and behavior in the identification of its levels of noise to protect against activity interference. One reason may have been that much of the information at that time related to the occupational setting rather than the general environment. Another may have been the complexity of the topic and the difficulty involved in identifying a single noise level that could apply to a great variety of tasks and conditions. Although these difficulties still pertain, much research has been generated in this area over recent years. (16)

Noise can cause adverse effects on task performance and behavior at work, and in nonoccupational and social settings. These effects are the subject of some controversy, however, since they do not always occur as predicted. Sometimes noise actually improves performance, and sometimes there are no measurable differences between performance in noisy and quiet conditions. The presence and degree of effects depends on a variety of intervening variables.

1. Sensory and motor effects

Experiments on the effects of noise on vision have produced conflicting results, with the suggestion of some effects on visual discrimination (Cohen, 1977). There is evidence, however, that high levels of noise can produce shifts in visual field (Parker, et al., 1976, 1978). High levels of noise can affect vestibular function, especially when the presentation to the two ears is asymmetrical, (or the level of attenuation is greater in one ear) (Harris, 1968). Impulsive or other sudden loud sounds can produce a startle response that does not completely habituate with repeated, predictable exposures (May and Rice, 1971).

2. Noise variables

Sound level is one of the most important parameters when predicting performance effects. The level of noise necessary to produce adverse effects is greatly dependent upon the type of task. Simple tasks remain unaffected at noise levels as high as 115 dB or above, while more complex tasks are disrupted at much lower levels. Until fairly recently, the level of beginning effects was thought to be around 95 dB for most conditions, but a summary of recent research (Jones, 1990) points to effects at much lower levels. Effects on serial reaction tasks have been noted for continuous noise with C- weighted noise levels of 90 dB (Jones, 1983) and for intermittent noise with C-weighted levels of around 80 dB (Lahtela et al., 1986).

Frequency and temporal characteristics also play a part. High-frequency sound is more disruptive titan low-frequency sound, and intermittent noise can affect performance more adversely titan continuous noise of equivalent energy. Aperiodic intermittencies are more likely to produce adverse effects than regular ones, and impulse noise may be even more disruptive. Again the effects are variable, depending upon task complexity and other factors.

(16) For a comprehensive review of the effects of noise on job performance, see Suter, 1989.

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Much of the important research in the effects of noise on performance conducted over the last decade has focused on the effects of irrelevant speech. (17) The adverse effects of irrelevant speech appear to be fairly independent of sound level, at least in the 55-95 dB range, and therefore, are not mitigated simply by attenuating them by 10 dB or so (Jones, 1990). It also appears that irrelevant speech affects processes involving memory (e.g., reasoning, mental arithmetic, and problem solving) rather than attention. With respect to reading tasks, however, meaningful speech is more disruptive than meaningless speech (Jones, 1990). These findings have significance for many modern work and school environments, where information processing and exchange is so important, especially those of the "open plan" variety.

3. Task variables

Task complexity has been identified in numerous experiments as a crucial determinant of the effects of noise on performance. Noise exposure usually leaves simple routine tasks unaffected, and can even improve performance of monotonous tasks, presumably by elevating one's level of arousal (Broadbent, 1971). Some tasks, such as tracking and jobs requiring intellectual function, can be momentarily disrupted without decrements in overall performance (Broadbent, 1979). But if the noise level is sufficiently high or if the task becomes more complex, noise will have an adverse effect. When two or more tasks must be performed simultaneously in a noisy environment, performance on the primary task usually remains unaffected, while performance on the subsidiary task deteriorates (Hockey and Hamilton, 1970; Davies and Jones, 1975; Finkleman and Glass, 1970).

4. After-effects

It seems that noise can have even greater effects after than during exposure. The most common after-effect appearing in the experimental literature is a reduced tolerance for frustration, manifested in a series of experiments as a reduction in willingness to persist in trying to solve insoluble puzzles (Glass and Singer, 1972; Percival and Loeb, 1980). This research also indicates that predictability of the noise signal greatly reduces its adverse after-effects (Glass and Singer, 1972). One study found that the type of noise also influenced the after-effect. Aircraft noise modified to produce sudden onsets and offsets resulted in a lower tolerance for frustration after the exposure than white noise that ad been similarly modified (Percival and Loeb, 1980).

5. Effects of noise on social behavior

There is an extensive literature concerning the effect of noise on social behavior, and just a few examples of this research will be discussed here. Singer et al. (1990) point out that noise has been used as a noxious stimulus in a variety of investigations because it produces the same biological and psychological effects as other stressors. In fact, they observe that the effects of noise combined with perceived control have been frequently demonstrated, and these investigations have also been extended to many other situations where the presence of control reliably moderates the effects of stress. (18)

In a frequently-cited laboratory study, Matthews and Cannon (1975) found that fewer subjects there willing to help someone who had "accidentally" dropped materials when background noise levels there 85 dB than when they there 65 dB. In a subsequent field study, the same results there demonstrated in a background of lawn mother noise, and this time the addition of a cast on the "victim's" arm enhanced helping behavior under quiet conditions, but failed to do so during the noise episodes (Matthews and Cannon, 1975). In another such experiment, Sauser et al. (1978) found that subjects recommended lower salaries for fictitious employees when exposed to A-weighted levels of


(17) The initial work was performed by Salame and Baddeley (1982, 1983, and 1987), and has been summarized by Jones (1990) at a recent conference in Stockholm.
(18) Singer et al. (1990) cite the research of Langer and Rodin on the effects of patient control in a nursing home situation.

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office noise at 70 to 80 dB than in quiet. Broadbent (1979 and 1983) cites additional evidence suggesting that subjects will give each other increased amounts of shock and noise when they themselves are exposed to noise, and also cites evidence that noise increases anxiety levels (Broadbent, 1983).

As mentioned above, the presence of control, or even perceived control, is one of the most important predictors of adverse behavioral effects. Subjects who perceive that they have control over the noise show significantly greater tolerance for frustration than subjects without control, even if the control is never exercised (Glass and Singer, 1972). In a recent experiment, Singer and his colleagues found that subjects who there told that they had control of an A-weighted, 103-dB noise stimulus showed significantly greater persistence on a difficult task than subjects who had no control or subjects that had control for only part of the experiment (Singer et al., 1990). This finding occurred despite the fact that the subjects with only partial control reported feelings of control no different from those with full control. To the extent that these findings can be generalized to populations living in noisy areas, this kind of research may have significant sociological implications.

6. Summary: Effects on performance and behavior

Noise can adversely affect task performance in a variety of circumstances. In the past, research in this area has focused mainly on the occupational setting, where noise levels must be sufficiently high and the task sufficiently complex for performance decrements to occur. Recent research implicates more moderate noise levels, especially when speech is the disruptive noise stimulus. Some research indicates that noise can also produce disruptive after-effects, commonly manifested as a reduced tolerance for frustration, and it appears that the presence and timing of control over the noise are critical to the prediction of after-effects. Even moderate noise levels can increase anxiety, decrease the incidence of helping behavior, and increase the risk of hostile behavior in experimental subjects. These effects may, to some extent, help explain the "dehumanization" of today's urban environment.

E. Extra-Auditory Health Effects

Noise has been implicated in the development or exacerbation of a variety of health problems, ranging from hypertension to psychosis. Some of these findings are based on carefully controlled laboratory or field research, but many others are the products of studies that have been severely criticized by the research community. In either case, obtaining valid data can be very difficult because of the myriad of intervening variables that must be controlled, such as age, selection bias, preexisting health conditions, diet, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic status, exposure to other agents, and environmental and social stressors. Additional difficulties lie in the interpretation of the findings, especially those involving acute effects. For example, if noise raises blood pressure on a temporary basis, will prolonged exposure produce permanent changes? In cases where these effects are permanent but slight, what are the long-term implications? These types of questions and problems have caused this particular area of noise research and criteria development to be very controversial.

1. Theoretical basis

Noise is considered a nonspecific biological stressor, eliciting a response that prepares the body . for action, sometimes referred to as the "fight or flight" response. The physiological mechanism thought to be responsible for this reaction is the stimulation by noise (via the auditory system) of the brain's reticular activating system (Cohen, 1977). Neural impulses spread from the reticular system to the higher cortex and throughout the central nervous system. Noise can, therefore, influence

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perceptual, motor, and cognitive behavior, and also trigger glandular, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal changes by means of the autonomic nervous system. Evidence of these effects, however, is not easy to. come by. Despite decades of research and probably hundreds of studies, relatively little can be said with much confidence.

2. Effects on blood pressure

Probably the most attention has been directed toward cardiovascular effects, especially potential elevations in blood pressure. Many studies of the stressful effects of noise have been conducted on rodents and other laboratory animals. the advantage of these studies is that they offer a greater degree of control and it is possible to have longer exposures than with human subjects. The disadvantages are that there is difficulty generalizing to humans, especially with the smaller animals, the expense involved when larger animals are used, and the prevailing public sentiment against animal experimentation.

EPA sponsored one of the most notable animal studies of noise exposure, in which Peterson and his colleagues performed five sets of experiments on the cardiovascular effects of noise on monkeys (Peterson et al., 1978, 1981, and 1983). The stimulus consisted of A-weighted levels of workplace noise at 85 to 90 dB, and the exposures there as long as 9 months. The results showed significant elevations of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure the fact that these changes persisted long after exposure cessation argues for a chronic effect, at least in this case. Unfortunately, an attempt to replicate this experiment with another primate model was discontinued for lack of funding after only two subjects had been exposed (Turkkan, et al., 1983). Relatively few animal experiments have been conducted in this area over recent years.

With respect to laboratory investigations involving human subjects, Rehm (1983) cites six studies showing increases in blood pressure, but questions whether these effects would be permanent. In an attempt to identify more susceptible populations, Michalak et al. (1990) investigated the effects of low-flying aircraft on elderly subjects. Using recorded aircraft sounds, they found significant increases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure after exposure to the two types of noise, with significantly greater response to the rapid-onset flyover noise. Whether or not these increases would become permanent with protracted exposure is not known.

Field studies of noise and blood pressure among workers or community residents are becoming increasingly popular, but the results are not always consistent. Rehm (1983) has reviewed 14 field studies, mostly of occupational noise exposure, and reports that the majority showed significant increases in either systolic or diastolic blood pressure, or both. Van Dijk et al. (1983), however, reports that six other studies of exposure to occupational noise found no significant differences between exposed and nonexposed groups.

Knipschild and Oudshoom (1977) avoided some of the pitfalls characteristic of epidemiological studies by examining a population near the Amsterdam airport before and after an increase in exposure to aircraft noise, and comparing it to a nonexposed population nearby. The dependent variable was the purchase of certain prescription drugs: tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antacids, and cardiovascular drugs. The investigators found that the use of these drugs in the nonnoise area was essentially stable, whereas the use of most types of these drugs in the area newly impacted by noise increased steadily over the years investigated. This increase was especially noticeable for antihypertensive drugs.

In a more recent review, van Dijk (1990) analyzed 12 cross-sectional studies, with half of them showing a positive relation between noise exposure and blood pressure, and the others no significant effects. Van Dijk criticizes these kinds of investigations for the following kinds of weaknesses: inadequate description of noise and blood pressure measurements; absence or inadequate control of intervening variables; use of hearing loss as a determinant of exposure magnitude; use of hearing. protectors; and questionable interpretation of the results. Part of the problem may be that the investigators often come from only one discipline, when, in fact, a multi-disciplinary team is needed.

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Thompson and Fidell (1990) recommend the use of prospective or case-control models, rather than the more convenient cross-sectioned study, and they stress the importance of adequate sample size. They maintain that because any changes in blood pressure resulting from community noise are likely to be small, careful controls, large sample sizes, and at least 5 years of exposure to noise would be nerved to identify significant effects.

3. Effects on blood chemistry

Blood chemistry is also of interest in studies of wire exposure and the cardiovascular system. In the review cited above, Rehm (1983) reports on a series of experiments, both laboratory and field, which show increased levels of the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine. Among them are the series of experiments by Ising and his colleagues (1981a, 1981b, 1981c), showing a connection between noise exposure and magnesium metabolism and humans and animals. According to Rehm, this finding suggests a possible mechanism for cardiovascular effects in that a chronic magnesium imbalance can lead to increased intracellular levels of calcium (in the heart, for instance), which, in turn, can cause vasoconstriction and increases the sensitization for catecholamines.

A large epidemiological study, the Caerphilly and Speedwell Heart Disease Study in England, holds some promise for investigating the effects of road traffic noise (Babisch and Gallacher, 1990). This study of heart disease and a variety of environmental factors uses both the cross-sectional and prospective approaches, and should continue for more than 10 years. The investigators have performed detailed noise exposure measurements. Sample sizes of more than 2000 men have been drawn from both the Caerphilly and Speedwell communities, and controls for age, socio-economic factors, family history, body weight, smoking habits, alcohol, and physical activity have been instituted. Initial results (from the cross-sectional study) indicate significant noise related elevations of serum cholesterol and glucose levels, and plasma viscosity, with an absence of significance for blood pressure or any of the other cardiovascular risk factors. The authors point out that all of the effects there slight, but even small increases, should they prove to be real, would be relevant to the public health.

4. Interactions

Several investigators have suggested that aversion to noise may be more highly correlated with health problems than the noise itself. For example, a study by Rehm (1983) found a significant correlation between noise annoyance and cardiovascular disorders. Her data also suggest that those with existing health problems are more annoyed by environmental factors, such as noise. Similarly, Rovekamp (1983) found that subjects who described themselves as sensitive to noise showed significantly greater noise-induced increases in peripheral vasoconstriction than their "normal" counterparts. Finally, a recent study . of road traffic and aircraft noise failed to show a significant increase in blood pressure resulting from noise, but did show a correlation between the presence of noise and subjective health complaints (Pulles et al.,1990). Differences in effects between noise and non-noise groups there dependent upon the subjects' perceived control over the noise, but independent of noise level.

5. Other adverse effects

Adverse health effects from noise exposure other than cardiovascular effects are even more difficult to isolate. Several studies have investigated the effects of noise on fetal development, with inconclusive results. Some have shown an indication of reduced birth weight or an increase in premature births, but the effects are usually slight, and (except in one case, McDonald et al., 1988), not statistically significant (Rehm and Jansen, 1978; Knipschild et al.., 1981).

The effects of noise on documented mental health disorders are likewise inconclusive. Rehm (1990) cites a series of studies showing increased numbers of psychoneurotic and psychosomatic

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complaints due to noise exposure, but whether or not these complaints lead to chronic disfunction or illness is not obvious.

6. Summary: Extra-auditory effects

As a biological stressor, noise can influence the entire physiological system. Most effects appear to be transitory, but with continued exposure some effects have been shown to be chronic in laboratory animals. Probably the strongest evidence lies in the cardiovascular effects. However, many studies show adverse effects, while many others show no significant differences between experimental and control populations.

Undoubtedly because of the lack of consistent evidence in thin area, EPA could not use data on extra-auditory health effects in its identification of safe levels of environmental noise. Instead, this subject was relegated to a brief discussion in an appendix in the Levels Document. Although considerable attention was devoted to this topic at the international conference in Yugoslavia, and some coverage was given in the 1973 Criteria Document, the evidence was far from sufficient and much too complex to enable the formulation of dose-response relationships. Later, EPA did fund some promising research in this area (Hattis and Richardson, 1980; Peterson et al., 1978, 1981, 1983; Turkkan, 1983), some of which has clearly demonstrated adverse cardiovascular effects at noise levels typical of occupational settings.

In the interim, there has been considerable European research activity in this area, but nearly 20 years later, criteria are still lacking. What is available, however, should give public policymakers as well as noise producers some reason for concern, especially in situations where those impacted by the noise have no control over or perceive they have no control over their exposures.

F. Annoyance

Annoyance is the measured outcome of a community's response to survey questions on various environmental and other factors, such as noise exposure. Although annoyance in individuals is sometimes measured in the laboratory, field evaluations of community annoyance are most useful for predicting the consequences of planned actions involving highways, airports, road traffic, railroads, or other noise sources. Factors directly affecting annoyance from noise include interference with communication and sleep disturbance, which have been discussed in earlier sections. Other less direct effects are disruption of one's peace of mind, the enjoyment of one's property, and the enjoyment of solitude. The consequences of noise-induced annoyance are privately felt dissatisfaction, publicly expressed complaints to authorities, and potential adverse health effects, as suggested above.

"Annoyance" has been the term used to describe the community's collective feelings about noise ever since the early noise surveys in the 1950s and 1960s, although some have suggested that this term tends to minimize the impact. While "aversion" or "distress" might be more appropriate descriptors, their use would make comparisons to previous research difficult. It should be clear, however, that annoyance can connote more than a slight irritation; it can mean a significant degradation in the quality of life. This represents a degradation of health in accordance with the WHO's definition of health, meaning total physical and mental well-being, as well as the absence of disease.

1. Predicting annoyance for public policy purposes

To facilitate the development of criteria and public policy, Schultz (1978) summarized and analyzed a large number of studies of community annoyance from aircraft, road traffic, and railroad

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noise. As part of this effort, Schultz made several simplifying assumptions, among them that the percentage of the population determined to be "highly annoyed" would be the only parameter plotted as a function of day-night average sound level. The resulting curve portrays annoyance as independent of noise source, and it has been dubbed the Schultz curve.

Recently, Fidell et al. (1991) reanalyzed the original data used by Schultz, adding new data from it community noise surveys. The resulting function shows slightly greater annoyance in the range between DNLS of 51 dB and 72 dB, and slightly less annoyance above about a DNL of 76 dB than the original curve. In general, the two curves are fairly close, indicating that the new studies have not drastically altered the prediction of community annoyance, at least when reactions to various noise sources are plotted together. When annoyance from various noise sources is analyzed separately, however, the new data are quite revealing, as will be discussed below.

Although it has been used internationally in the formation of noise policy, the Schultz curve has been the subject of much debate (Kryter, 1982a, 1982b; Griffiths, 1983). For example, Griffiths (1983) criticizes Schultz for treating attitudinal data categorically (highly annoyed or otherwise) rather than scaling it, for failing to analyze the distribution of annoyance, for assuming a fixed threshold for noise-related annoyance, and for choosing such an extreme criterion as highly annoyed. Perhaps because of these reasons, as well as a number of others, researchers and policymakers are beginning to examine alternatives to the Schultz curve for predicting community annoyance from noise.

2. Metrics

The metrics most commonly used to describe the relationship between noise and community annoyance are the equivalent continuous sound level, and the day-night average sound level (DNL), composite ratings based on the A-weighted sound level. The DNL is used almost exclusively for airport planning in the U.S., but this practice has recently been called into question. For example, the importance of communication and relaxation in the evening hours has been recognized (in California and occasionally in Europe) by the use of the community noise equivalent level (CNEL), a metric that includes a 5-dB penalty for noises occurring between 7:00 and 10:00 pm as well as the 10-dB nighttime penalty (California Code of Regulations, 1990). In a study of the communities surrounding two French airports, residents expressed the greatest annoyance during the hours between 7:00 and 11:00 pm (Francois, 1977).

Some authorities are considering the use of the sound exposure level (SEL) for evaluating the effects of single events, such as aircraft flyovers (EPA/FAA, 1990). The importance of other parameters are also being considered, such as rise time (or onset time) as an indicator of the annoyance from low-flying military aircraft (Harris, 1989). Officials from the U.S. Forest Service report that their agency has begun to use an aircraft detectability criterion to site recreational facilities (Harrison et al., 1990).

3. Criteria

Community annoyance resulting from noise-induced activity interference was one of the most important considerations in EPA's identification of an outdoor DNL of 55 dB as the "safe" level of environmental noise (EPA, 1974a). Some years later, a Federal Inter-Agency Committee on Urban Noise (FICUN) developed guidelines for considering noise in land-use planning and control (DOT, 1980). (19)

In its noise zone classification table, "minimal" exposures to noise there defined as DNLS below 55 dB, and between DNLS of 55 and 65 dB, the exposures there labeled "moderate." However, all


(19) FICUN was an ad-hoc interagency panel composed of representatives from EPA, FAA, HUD, the Department of Defense, and the Veterans Administration. In 1990 another such group, the Federal Interagency Committee on Noise (FICON) has been activated (focussing mainly on aircraft noise), but a report has not been published to date.

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of these exposures there considered "acceptable" according to land-use planning standards specified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). No research was cited to support these conclusions. In a footnote, FICUN stated the following:

HUD, DOT and EPA recognize Ldn = 55 dB as a goal for outdoors in residential areas in protecting the public health and welfare with an adequate margin of safety (Reference: EPA "Levels" Document.) However, it is not a regulatory goal. It is a level defined by a negotiated scientific consensus without concern for economic and technological feasibility or the needs and desires of any particular community.

The Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has adopted a DNL of 65 as the point above which residential land-use becomes "normally unacceptable." Below this level, the FAA does not require airport authorities to draw noise contours or discuss the impact of airport noise on the surrounding communities for purposes of compatibility planning or to receive grants under the Part 150 program. (20) Thus, public policy decisions, at least on the federal level, have not considered the annoyance of individuals living in the DNL 55-65 dB range.

Recent research confirms the findings of earlier investigations relied upon by the EPA, that annoyance is often generated at day-night average sound levels well below 65 dB (Fidell et al., 1985; Fidell et al., 1991; Hall et al., 1981). Figures 4 and 5 from Fidell et al. (1991) portray the responses from surveys of two mid-sized airports in California: Burbank Airport and the Orange County Airport. The percentage of respondents highly annoyed is depicted as a function of DNL, and compared to the Schultz curve. Both studies show significantly greater numbers of people highly annoyed than would have been predicted by the Schultz curve. For example, at 60 dB, as many as 70 percent of the Burbank population described themselves as highly annoyed and some 40 percent near the Orange County Airport.

Presumably because of this kind of evidence, another interagency task force has convened to discuss the extent to which day-night average sound levels below 65 dB should be taken into account in assessing the impact of aircraft/airport noise, and to examine the possible need for a single-event metric to supplement the DNL (EPA/FAA, 1990). (21)

4. Sources

The sources of noise producing community annoyance are primarily aircraft, road traffic, and railroad noise, although noise from industry, construction, and within buildings can also be problematical. The leading offenders are usually aircraft and road traffic noise, although the hierarchy depends upon many factors, such as urbanization, numbers of noise events, and proximity to the sources. Recent research indicates that, despite equivalent noise levels, some sources of community noise are more annoying than others, providing further indication that the Schultz curve cannot be valid for all circumstances.

Treating annoyance from all sources with one predictive curve provokes the hoards of oversimplification. De Jong (1990a) reports that an analysis of Dutch studies carried out over the previous 15 years showed that aircraft and highway noise produced considerably more annoyance than equivalent levels of train, tramway, and urban road noise (Miedema, 1988). The divergence was particularly pronounced at high noise levels. The fact that aircraft generate more annoyance than surface transportation is portrayed dramatically in the analysis described above by Fidell et al. (1991), where annoyance related to mid-sized airports appears substantially greater than that


(20) Part 150 studies are conducted at airports where the noise generated by airport construction or expansion is potentially incompatible with the surrounding community. These studies must follow the procedure set out by Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 150.
(21) The U.S. EPA and FAA put together an intragency agreement to examine the extent to which single event analyses and information beyond the Ldn = 65 contour provide useful additions to current methods of evaluating potential airport noise impacts. Under this agreement, a contractor would identify eight existing airports and perform a quantitative analysis using existing data. No new annoyance data would be developed.

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Link to Figure 4:
Relationship of data from Burbank Airport Study to the 1978 synthesis (Schultz) curve, showing percentage of respondents highly annoyed as a function of day-night average sound level.


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Link to Figure 5:
Relationship of data from Orange County Airport Study to the 1978 synthesis (Schultz) curve, showing percentage of respondents highly annoyed as a function of day-night average sound level.


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predicted by the Schultz curve, while annoyance from urban sources, such as trains, trams, and street traffic, is considerably less than that predicted by the Schultz curve.(22) Figures 6 and 7, also from Fidell et al. (1991), depict data from British and Swedish railroad studies, showing somewhat less annoyance from these sources in relation to the Schultz curve.

The explanation for these source-related differences is not necessarily that aircraft noise is inherently more annoying than surface transportation noise. It may be related to differences in people's criteria for responding to various noise sources (de Jong, 1990b; Green and Fidell, 1991). Or it may be caused by differences in sensitivity which are actually biologically based.» Green and Fidell (1991) point out that this evidence does not discredit the predictive validity of the DNL, but suggest that communities adopt a more sensitive criterion when evaluating the impact of aircraft noise. (24)

Impulse noise also appears to be more annoying than continuous noise of equivalent energy, and various penalties have been proposed ranging from 0 dB at relatively high ambient noise levels of about 67 dB, to 10 dB at ambient levels as low as 35 dB (Rice, 1983). Vos and Smoorenburg (1983) have recommended a formula for computing the impulse noise penalty, taking into account the type of noise source, the signal level, and the ambient noise level.

As de Jong points out (1990b), most people are exposed to some combination of noise sources, posing a very complex predictive problem. Several models for predicting noise annoyance from complex sources have been proposed, but most fail to solve the difficult theoretical problems involved (de Jong cites Berglund et al., 1981, and Miedema, 1985). Among the groups working on these models are the Institute for Sound and Vibration Research in England, and the Netherlands' Organization for Applied Scientific Research, TNO.

5. Nonacoustics variables

Although it is dear that community annoyance is positively correlated with noise exposure level, other variables also appear to be important, such as ambient noise level, time of day and year, location, and socioeconomic status. None of these other variables, however, is as powerful as the attitude of the residents surveyed. This is a good example of the fact that the human being is not a black box, where the effect is a simple consequence of the input. In a recent analysis of 280 social surveys, Fields (1990) examined 17 hypotheses as they relate to community annoyance from noise. Besides noise exposure level, the only variables Fields identified as strongly correlated with noise annoyance there the attitudinal hypotheses: (1) fear that the noise source might be a danger to the neighborhood, (2) belief that the noise is preventable, (3) awareness that non-noise problems are associated with the noise source, (4) stated sensitivity to noise, and (5) belief that the economic activity represented by the source is not important for the community.

6. Habituation

The evidence is fairly dear that so long as the stimulus remains the same, noise annoyance does not subside over time (e.g., Fields, 1990). Griffiths (1983) cites studies showing no habituation for highway noise 4 months to 2 years after the opening of new routes. De long (1990) found that annoyance in a previously surveyed community increased by 10 percent with no change in noise levels. He suggests that this increase could represent a shift of internal criteria due to increased publicity and other factors, or perhaps an increase in physiological sensitization.

(22) See also Fidell et al. (1985), Hall et al. (1981), and de Jong (1990).
(23) De Jong (1990b) cites the work of Di Nisi et al. (1987) and Ising, et al.(1981b) to support this theory.
(24) Green and Fidell found a difference of 5.2 dB bettheen the noise levels at which the same percentage of people are highly annoyed by aircraft noise versus noise from surface transportation.

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Link to Figure 6:
Relationship of data from British Railroad Study to the 1978 synthesis (Schultz) curve, showing percentage of respondents highly annoyed as a function of day-night average sound level.


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Link to Figure 7:
Relationship of data from Swedish Railroad Study to the 1978 synthesis (Schultz) curve, showing percentage of respondents highly annoyed as a function of day-night average sound level.


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7. Annoyance and health

There has been very little study of the effects of noise-related annoyance on general health, although this would appear to be a fertile field. The study mentioned in section E.4, above by Rehm (1983) suggests a relationship between annoyance and cardiovascular disorders. Likewise, another study indicates a connection between noise and subjective health complaints (Pulles, et al., 1990). De Jong (1990a) refers to the recent use in Germany of the concept of "substantial annoyance" as a predictor of possible health damage.(25) He recommends the development of an integrated theory of noise effects "to uncover the relationships among medical, physiological, behavioral, and ecological effects of environmental noise. " (de Jong, 1990a, p.520)

8. Summary: Annoyance

Annoyance can be viewed as the expression of negative feelings resulting from interference with activities, as well as disruption of one's peace of mind and the enjoyment of one's environment. Although this reaction can run the gamut of mild irritation to extreme distress, only responses categorized as "highly annoyed" (and greater) have been used to measure the impact of noise on communities. The most respected and widely used criterion to assess community annoyance in the U.S. has been the Schultz curve, although this criterion has been the subject of heated debate. Several recent studies indicate that the Schultz curve underestimates annoyance due to aircraft noise and overestimates annoyance from the noise of urban traffic and trains, leading to the conclusion that annoyance from these categories should be assessed separately. In addition, there has been growing interest in supplementing the traditional DNL with a descriptor for single events.

EPA's Levels Document identified the outdoor level to protect against activity interference as a day-night average sound level of 55 dB. This identification was not to be construed as a standard or regulation, (26) but as information to aid states, localities, and the general public. Later, an interagency task force identified average levels between 55 and 65 dB as "acceptable" for purposes of land-use planning. The DNL 65-dB criterion, which has been applied particularly to airport noise assessments, is now being reconsidered by another interagency task force.

There is evidence that impulse noise is more annoying than continuous noise of equivalent energy, and various correction factors have been proposed to account for the difference. In addition, most people are exposed to a combination of noise sources, and models for predicting the resulting annoyance are in the formative stages.

The most important variables other than noise exposure level relate to people's attitudes about the noise, such as fear of possible danger, stated sensitivity, and the belief that the noise is preventable. Finally, it appears that noise-related annoyance does not subside over time.


(25) De Jong cites Jansen (1986).
(26) See Foreword, Levels Document (EPA, 1974a).

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VI. Conclusions

Noise has a significant impact on the quality of American life. There is no evidence that the impact has diminished in the years since ONAC was abolished. Rather, it appears that the impact is at least as great, and most probably greater, than it was 10 years ago, due to population growth, especially in urban areas, and the proliferation of certain noise sources.

A considerable amount of noise effects research has been conducted over the last decade, much of it taking place in the European nations where governmental concern about noise is greater than it is in the U.S. at this time. These studies have expanded the knowledge base and filled certain gaps. Many of them suggest important interrelationships between the various noise effects that remain largely unexplored. For example, perceived control over noise appears to decrease its adverse effects on the subsequent performance of certain tasks. The concept of control also has a bearing on annoyance from noise, as do several other nonacoustic factors. Annoyance appears to be related to extra-auditory health effects, and chronic sleep interference, which is a component of annoyance, can have adverse effects on health and well-being.

All of these effects are, to a varying degree, stress related. Nowadays there is increasing evidence in the medical literature on the relationship between stress and illness, one which is often exacerbated by lack of control.

Cumulatively, this evidence suggests the potential for a unifying hypothesis that may well explain some of the health effects that have been observed in connection to noise exposure, but have usually been dismissed because of the absence or insufficiency of direct cause and effect relationships. Such a hypothesis, however, can only be validated by a new interdisciplinary approach, one which takes a broader and somewhat different perspective than is currently employed. This approach could very well provide the key to understanding a great deal more about the general impact of noise on society, and the extra-auditory effects in particular.

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