Acoustiblok Soundproofing Blog Articles

Silence the Ultimate Frontier. Or is it? - Part 1

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Nov 1, 2013 4:39:00 PM

Acoustiblok blog

Outer Space the Ultimate Quiet

In the motion picture Gravity (2013), NASA astronaut Matt Kowalski and Dr. Ryan Stone are performing an outer space walk while performing repairs on the Hubble Telescope. Kowalski asks Dr. Stone, “What do you like best about this place?” Dr. Stone responds, “Silence.”

Outer space is the ultimate silent place. If you shouted in outer space, even the person right next to you would not be able to hear what you said. Why is this? Sound propagates (spreads) as pressure waves through a medium, such as air (gas), water (liquid) or solids such as metals, wood or glass. What we call "sound" is actually vibrations in the air. 

Acoustiblok BlogBecause space is almost vacuum (space that is empty of matter), there is no air and thus there is also no sound. So don’t bother trying to tell your astro-buddy that his space fly is down unless you’re communicating through a space suite communication device: He isn’t going to hear you. In the movie, Dr. Stone talks about how peaceful it is in space and she feels at peace with herself when she realizes that she might die in space after a debris field rendered their space shuttle useless for flight. 

Why does Dr. Ryan feel so peaceful in space by the lack of noise? It seems obvious to us, but I’m not sure most of us can truly appreciate what going from a world full of noise from cars, trucks, airplanes trains, construction equipment, generators, chillers constant human talking to a place void of sound.  

The decibel (abbreviated dB) is the unit used to measure the intensity of a sound. There is no such thing as zero when it comes to sound.  While zero decibels is technically demarcated as the threshold for the human ability to hear sound, some people can decipher sounds in the negative decibel range. Normal speaking voices are around 65 dB. A rock concert can be about 120 dB.

Owoman sleeping in bedn earth, there are few places where you can achieve a truly sound and noise-free environment. The typical quiet room — such as your bedroom late at night — has an ambient noise level of about 30 decibels, caused by the rustling of sheets, the hum of the air conditioner or heater, and similar sources of white noise. Imagine being in an environment where you can hear the fluids moving in your own body. 

describe the imageWhat if you want to measure how loud a consumer product is, for example a cell phone’s ring or the hum of an Xbox game system or computer, or a dishwasher. You are better off doing so in an environment with little to no ambient noise. Much of this type of testing is done in rooms called an anechoic chambers(left). 

Read more about anechoic chambers in Part 2 of this blog post coming very soon. 



Tags: noise-free environments, anechoic chambers, soundproofing materials, quiet, sound, Acoustiblok

How We Hear Sound

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Oct 29, 2013 10:54:00 AM

 Blog Photo Old School How Sound Travels B&W  describe the image

Pitch and Frequency

A sound wave (waves that carry sound), like any other wave, is introduced into a medium (like air or water) by a vibrating object. Sound can’t travel through a vacuum (an area empty of matter). The vibrating object is the source of the disturbance that moves through the medium. The vibrating object that creates the disturbance could be a residential or
commercial generator or HVAC unit, a stereo speaker, a person talking, or other things. Regardless of what object is, the particles of the medium through which the sound moves is vibrating in a back and forth motion at a given frequency.

describe the imageThree characteristics are used to describe a sound wave.These are wavelength, frequency and amplitudel

   -  Wavelength: This is the distance from the crest of the one wave to the crest of the next. 

   -  Frequency: This is the number of waves that pass appoint in each sound.

   -  Amplitude: This is the measure of the amount of energy in a sound wave.

describe the imageThe frequency of a wave refers to how oftenthe particles of the medium vibrate when a wave passes through the medium. It is measured as the number of complete back-and-forth

vibrations of a particle of the medium per unit of time. If a particle of air undergoes 1000 longitudinal vibrations in 2 seconds, then the frequency of the wave would be 500 vibrations per second. A commonly used unit for frequency is the Hertz (abbreviated Hz).

Humans can hear sounds at frequencies from about 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, though we hear sounds best from 1,000 Hz to 5,000 Hz, where human speech is centered. Hearing loss may reduce the range of frequencies a person can hear. It is common for people to lose their ability to hear higher frequencies as they get older.

Sounds at some frequencies are perceived as louder to the human ear than sounds at certain other frequencies, even though they may actually have the same dB level. 

How we hear sound

This demonstrates two interesting facts about how we hear:

 1. The lower the frequency, the less sensitive the human ear is to it, especially sounds below 100 Hz.

 2. The human ear is most sensitive to sounds around 4000 Hz.

 How we measure sound levels

A sound level meter is used to measure sound pressure levels. Since the human ear is not equally sensitive to all sound levels, most sound level meters have internal frequency weighting systems to give readings equivalent to how we hear sound levels. These weighting systems are designated as A, B, and C weightings. Today only the A and C weightings are used. The A weighting is used most frequently because it yields sound measurements that most closely reflect how we actually hear.

Tags: sound, acoustical noise, vibration, science if sound, acoustics

Background Noise Adds to Creativity, But Not If it's Too Loud

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Oct 24, 2013 3:35:00 PM


describe the image

How much background sound is acceptable?

Background Noise is the noise level at a given location and time, measured in the absence of any alleged noise nuisance or sound sources being studied. It is also referred to as the ambient or residual noise. Background noise is a form of noise pollution or interference. Examples of background noises are environmental noises such as waves, traffic noise, alarms, people talking, bioacoustic noise from animals or birds and mechanical noise from devices such as refrigerators or air conditioning, power supplies or motors.

Noise is defined as unwanted sound. Whether we are in our homes, workplaces, or outdoors, we will almost certainly be exposed to a certain level of background or ambient sound. Before we can begin to solve a noise control problem, we must determine how much background sound is acceptable. We can never create, nor do we really want, a completely sound-free environment. We do not wish to live in a world without sound. 

The question becomes: at what level does background sound become too loud for a particular situation? A moderate level of background sound can be helpful when it prevents private conversation in the home or workplace from being overheard by nearby listeners, yet doesn’t make it difficult for those conversing to be heard by each other.

Very low level background sound can even contribute to sleep or rest when not interrupted by intermittent or sudden loud noises. In some public places, a somewhat higher level of background sound may be acceptable. Other places, such as auditoriums and concert halls where very low background sound levels are required, present particular problems in sound control.

Background Noise Contributes to More Creativitydescribe the image

Researchers asked 65 students at the University of British Columbia to perform various creative tasks while noises recorded at a roadside restaurant were played in the background. In one experiment, for example, scientists asked participants to brainstorm ideas for a new type of mattress. Test subjects had the most success when the noise in the background was noticeable, but not jarring.

The researchers found that test subjects were at their most creative when background noise was measured at 70 decibels, a level one might find in a fairly busy coffee shop. A nearly silent environment (50 decibels) was too quiet. Cranking up the volume to 85 decibels (for example, adding a jackhammering laborer outside your building) is counterproductive; the noise becomes a distraction.

Tags: background noise, creativity, soundproofing, Noise pollution

Office Noise Negatively Impacts Concentration and the Bottom Line: Part 4

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Oct 18, 2013 3:40:00 PM

  open office Part 4 pic

Acoustical Design and Treatments

Most office environments have poor acoustical design and often lack modern day sound mitigating systems which reduce office noise and make the environment more pleasant for office workers. In the open plan office, the acoustical performance of panels, ceilings, floors and walls must be controlled if speech privacy is to be maintained. The overall noise level should be compatible with the intended use of the space. If your office is noisy, some possible treatments include:

 acoustiblok office  soundproofing Add sound barrier materials to block noise or acoustical insulation to absorb noise inside wall joists. 

Use acoustical sound panels near cubicles as barriers or use acoustical “cloud” panels overhead to absorb sound.

Add a thin layer of acoustical wall cover material on top of drywall.

Hang acoustical sound absorbing décor on the walls.  

These types of acoustical materials reduce the amount and intensity of noise in an office building and can decrease stress and increase productivity. 

Benefits of Installing Office Soundproofing

The extensive use of open-plan design for offices has highlighted the problems related to the acoustical conditions in these environments. Installing soundproofing materials in the office:  

happy office guys Decreases employee distraction, which ultimately increases concentration and the quality of their work.

Reduces stress along with mental and physical fatigue. 

Makes conversations clearer, resulting in better communication between employees.

Provides a more pleasant working environment. 

Keeps work areas more private. A lack of employee communication privacy is a common complaint in most offices. 

Help keep sensitive company information more private. 

Help employees stay focused for longer periods of time.

Tags: office soundproofing, Office noise, noisy office, acoustical office treatments, soundproofing

Office Noise Negatively Impacts Concentration and the Bottom Line: Part 3

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Oct 16, 2013 5:30:00 PM

Blog Collage Insects Office Noise

Interfering Physical Noises

People differentiate unconsciously between good and bad sounds. People call many different kinds of sounds "noise." What is called a noise is highly subjective, depending on its loudness and sound characteristics, the same sound can be called a "pleasant noise" by some people while exactly the same sound can be called an "unpleasant noise" by other people.

Interfering noises (or interfering sounds) are sounds with a negative sound quality, that is, the sound event leads to a hearing event, which is perceived as unpleasant, disturbing and interfering. This sound event usually releases negative associations. A noise can be characterized as interfering, if it fulfills at least one of the following conditions:

   • A sound is unpleasant and interferes with what they are doing.  

   • The sound quality is worse than expected. The extent to which the person feels disturbed (little or high) is not relevant.

   • A sound occurs without the user expecting the sound event. 

copy machine by Cubile workerWhile most office workers have become accustomed to telephones ringing at 65 plus decibels and copy machines running at 70-plus decibels, an interfering noise doesn't necessarily have to be loud. A mosquito can produce considerable disturbing sound, although it is comparatively quiet with a volume of only approximately 30 decibels. A large housefly from 9 feet (3.0 m) makes a noise of 40 decibels. These may be perceived as unpleasant sounds to many when heard or experienced.  By contrast, an orchestra might produce very pleasant sounds, even if its volume amounts to nearly 90 decibels of sound. 

Tags: office cubicle noise, office soundproofing, Office noise, noisy offices, unpleasant noise, interfering noise, soundproofing, Acoustiblok, noise

Office Noise Negatively Impacts Concentration and the Bottom Line: Part 2

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Oct 9, 2013 12:45:00 PM

The Office

Source of Office Noise

Most people have seen the NBC mockumentary sitcom "The Office," which brilliantly told stories about the current contemporary work culture.  The show depicted the tribulations that arise when a group of people occupy the same open office space out of necessity rather than choice. While NBC's version of The Office skewered the monotony that is working in an office in an over the top fashion, it does show how noise and distractions impact those around them. 

Internal office noise can include ringing telephones and fax machines, loudspeaker paging systems, copy machines, HVAC systems, rustling paper, and other things. There are also occasional external noises that can make their way into an office building which occur during the course of a day. If you work near an outside wall of a building or near a window or door leading to the outside, you may hear noises from automobiles and trucks, airplanes, or noise from motorized landscaping machines such as lawnmowers,  trimmers, or blowers. 

The Office Dwight Shroot talkingNoise doesn't have to come from machines or equipment to be distracting or cause interference to our concentration abilities. In fact, speech, especially chit chat, ranks highest on the list of annoying office noise, according to a paper for the National Research Council of Canada.

Conversations that occur around you all day long are a major source of indoor office noise. While dialogue and interaction is a big part of a business on a day-to-day basis, many of these occur in places where the noise is not contained. It’s often difficult to hear over them and think as clearly as you normally do when they are audible. Studies with a specific focus on speech sounds have shown that the more intelligible the background speech is, the lower the performance says study author Helena Jahncke, Ph.D., a professor of environmental psychology at the University of Gälve in Sweden. It’s not clear exactly why this is, but one theory is that your brain automatically wants to devote mental resources to understanding speech, so that means less brain power devoted to your own thoughts, Jahncke explains.

At any given time, a cubicle worker may be overhearing one or more phone conversations, water cooler chats, impromptu meetings, bull sessions, and even co-workers muttering at their computers. These activities can occur at decibel levels that range from 65 – 75 decibels or louder. These distractions often drown out our own thoughts, turning us into involuntary eavesdroppers.

Watch for Part 3 of this 4 part blog post series on office noise! 



Tags: office cubicle noise, office soundproofing, Office noise, noisy offices, soundproofing

Office Noise Negatively Impacts Concentration and Company's Bottom Line

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Oct 4, 2013 4:41:00 PM


office noise 2

Office Noise Can Increase Tension and Stress

Improving acoustics with office soundproofing pays for itself by the increase in your company's productivity. Although some people think that they function efficiently in a noisy and hectic environment, research shows that decibel levels over 60 can reduce a person's attention span. This can become a problem in an office environment where productivity is the order of the day and has a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. 

Noise in the workplace can increase tension and stress and lower productivity for workers who are exposed to low to moderate levels throughout the day, according to a 2001 Cornell University study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. 

stress woman in office at deskA normal conversation takes place at about 60 decibels and usual office background noise ranges from approximately 45-55 decibels. When workers are placed close together in open rooms or in rooms with many people talking at the same time, decibel levels can rise to 70 decibels and higher. A decibel is a term used to measure sound. For every increase of 10 decibels, sound is perceived to be twice as loud to the human ear. Exposure to sounds of 85 decibels or higher over a prolonged period can cause hearing damage. For this reason, workplace noise is regulated by most countries.    

Office work is a mental activity that requires concentration and focus. Complex tasks such as programming, engineering, writing, analysis, and design work often involve the psychological state of flow. This is a fragile state of concentration that can take fifteen minutes or more to engage and is easily broken by distractions such as irrelevant speech or someone interrupting unexpectedly.

Tags: office soundproofing, Office noise, commercial facilities

I'm Thinking. Please. Be Quiet

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Aug 28, 2013 1:25:00 PM


Main Image for NY Times Noise Blog Post Aug 2013__________________________________________________________________________________

The following is an excerpt from Author George Prochnik that ran in the New York Times Opinion Pages on Sunday, on August 24, 2013.  George Prochnik is the author of the forthcoming book “The Impossible Exile.”  ___________________________________________________________________________________

Slamming doors, banging walls, bellowing strangers and whistling neighbors were the bane of the (19th Century German) philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s (shown above) existence. But it was only in later middle age, after he had moved with his beloved poodle to the commercial hub of Frankfurt, that his sense of being tortured by loud, often superfluous blasts of sound ripened into a philosophical diatribe. Then, around 1850, Schopenhauer pronounced noise to be the supreme archenemy of any serious thinker.

His argument against noise was simple: A great mind can have great thoughts only if all its powers of concentration are brought to bear on one subject, in the same way that a concave mirror focuses light on one point.

Just as a mighty army becomes useless if its soldiers are scattered helter-skelter, a great mind becomes ordinary the moment its energies are dispersed.

describe the imageAnd nothing disrupts thought the way noise does, Schopenhauer declared, adding that even people who are not philosophers lose whatever ideas their brains can carry in consequence of brutish jolts of sound.

From the vantage point of our own auditory world, with its jets, jackhammers, HVAC systems, truck traffic, cellphones, horns, decibel-bloated restaurants and gyms on acoustical steroids, Schopenhauer’s mid-19th century complaints sound almost quaint. His biggest gripe of all was the “infernal cracking” of coachmen’s whips. (If you think a snapping line of
rawhide’s a problem, buddy, try the Rumbler Siren.) But if noise did shatter thought in the past, has more noise in more places further diffused our cognitive activity?

Environmental noise calls attention to itself — splits our own attention, regardless of willpower. We jerk to the tug of noise like sonic marionettes. There’s good reason for this. Among mammals, hearing developed as an early warning system; the human ear derived from the listening apparatus of very small creatures. Their predators were very big, and there were many of them.

blog ear spimd waves The evolved ear is an extraordinary amplifier. By the time the brain registers a sound, our auditory mechanism has jacked the volume several hundredfold from the level at which the sound wave first started washing around the loopy whirls of our ears. This is why, in a reasonably quiet room, we actually can hear a pin drop. Think what a tiny quantity of sound energy is released by a needle striking a floor! Our ancestors needed such hypersensitivity, because every standout noise signified a potential threat.

There has been a transformation in our relationship to the environment over the millions of years since the prototype for human hearing evolved, but part of our brain hasn’t registered the makeover.

Every time a siren shrieks on the street, our conscious minds might ignore it, but other brain regions behave as if that siren were a predator barreling straight for us. Given how many sirens city dwellers are subject to over the course of an average day, and the attention-fracturing tension induced by loud sounds of every sort, it’s easy to see how sensitivity to noise, once an early warning system for approaching threats, has become a threat in itself.

Indeed, our capacity to tune out noises — a relatively recent adaptation — may itself pose a danger, since it allows us to neglect the physical damage that noise invariably wreaks. A Hyena (Hypertension and Exposure to Noise Near Airports) study published in 2009 examined the effects of aircraft noise on sleeping subjects. The idea was to see what effect noise had, not only on those awakened by virtual fingernails raking the blackboard of the night sky, but on the hardy souls who actually slept through the thunder of overhead jets.

blood pressure1BlueThe findings were clear: even when people stayed asleep, the noise of planes taking off and landing caused blood pressure spikes, increased pulse rates and set off vasoconstriction and the release of stress hormones. Worse, these harmful cardiovascular responses continued to affect individuals for many hours after they had awakened and gone on with their days.

As Dr. Wolfgang Babisch, a lead researcher in the field, observed, there is no physiological habituation to noise. The stress of audible assault affects us psychologically even when we don’t consciously register noise.

In American culture, we tend to regard sensitivity to noise as a sign of weakness or killjoy prudery. To those who complain about sound levels on the streets, inside their homes and across a swath of public spaces like stadiums, beaches and parks, we say: “Suck it up. Relax and have a good time.” But the scientific evidence shows that loud sound is physically debilitating. A recent World Health Organization report on the burden of disease from environmental noise conservatively estimates that Western Europeans lose more than one million healthy life years annually as a consequence of noise-related disability and disease. Among environmental hazards, only air pollution causes more damage.

A while back, I was interviewed on a call-in radio station serving remote parts of Newfoundland. One caller lived in a village with just a few houses and almost no vehicular traffic. Her family had been sitting in the living room one evening when the power suddenly cut off. They simultaneously exhaled a sigh of relief. All at once, the many electronic devices around them (including the refrigerator, computers, generator, lamps and home entertainment systems and the unnatural ambient hum they generated and to which the family had become oblivious) went silent. The family members didn’t realize until the sound went off how loud it had become. Without knowing it, each family member’s mental energy was constantly diverted by and responsive to the threat posed by that sound.

Where does this leave those of us facing less restrained barrages? Could a critical mass of sound one day be reached that would make sustained thinking impossible?

Pullout Numb 2 for NY Times Article PostIs quiet a precondition of democracy? The Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter suggested it might just be. “The men whose labors brought forth the Constitution of the United States had the street outside Independence Hall covered with earth so that their deliberations might not be disturbed by passing traffic,” he once wrote. “Our democracy presupposes the deliberative process as a condition of thought and of responsible choice by the electorate.”

The quiet in Independence Hall was not the silence of a monastic retreat, but one that encouraged listening to others and collaborative statesmanship; it was a silence that made them more receptive to the sound of the world around them.

Most people who are seeking more serenity from the acoustical environment aren’t asking for the silence of the tomb. We just believe we should be able to hear ourselves think.





Read George Prochnik’s full article

Learn more about Arthur Schopenhauer

Among 19th century philosophers, Arthur Schopenhauer was among the first to contend that at its core, the universe is not a rational place. (source: Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy



Tags: environmental noise, Effects of noise, effect of noise on concentration, adverse health affects of noise, noise affects on concentration, how noise affects the brain, noise

Is There a Noise Problem in My Industrial Plant?

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Jul 31, 2013 5:32:00 PM

quiet cloud absorbs noise industrial bottling facility 3

Above: Acoustiblok's Quiet-Cloud industrial noise panels absorb noise in this Yuengling bottling facility. 

Industrial noise is usually considered mainly from the point of view of environmental health and safety, rather than nuisance, as sustained exposure can cause permanent hearing damage. Equipment used in a factory can be extremely loud. Everything from rotors, gears, fans, chillers, internal combustion engines, pumps, heavy machinery, etc., can be seen in industrial settings. All of this equipment can produce noise at decibel levels high enough to create environmental health and safety concerns.

describe the imageMeasures for controlling industrial noise are necessary to protect workers. Louder noise can also become a nuisance and may be considered noise pollution, in which case a community may require a company to take action and address it. When dealing with industrial noise mitigation, if possible, the goal is to always control the noise at the source by modifying the equipment itself or replacing it with a quieter model. However, for many companies, this is not always possible. Also, sometimes noise in a factory or industrial setting is the result of many machines running simultaneously.

Previous research has found that workplace noise led to severe health problems and resulted in significant increases in healthcare costs in many companies.

Noise Control

When an industrial operation is seeking compliance with OSHA noise regulations, the sound level regulation is a function of both sound level and daily exposure time. If the measurements reveal an excessive combination of sound levels and exposure times, a noise problem exists.

Depending on your budget and in-house capabilities, to find out whether you have a noise problem:

• It’s is always best to have an Industrial Hygienist identify the source of the noise and perform a noise measurement using proper instrumentation. Once you have their report, it can be given to a noise abatement company such as Acoustiblok who can help you find a solution using their soundproofing materials. If this is not an option:

• You can purchase a sound level meter, research how sound is measured and what the decibel levels mean, perform your own tests, and compare the results with OSHA noise workplace standards. If outdoor, also compare with your local city noise ordinance noise levels. If this is not possible:

• Another method is to try to talk comfortably with someone about 3.28 feet away (1 meter) from the noise source. If you can, there is probably not enough plant noise at that position to damage hearing. But if you, or others, must raise your voice above normal conversation levels (about 70 decibels) or shout to be heard or understood at close distances (between .6 foot to 1.3 feet (20 to 40 cm), plant noise at that position probably can cause hearing loss and you should have the sound levels there measured with suitable instruments.

Industrial noise problem chart 4 blog • If you are certain you have a noise problem, some soundproofing material companies, like Acoustiblok, have in-house acoustical professionals who will assist you in determining your noise problem and with finding a soundproofing solution.

It’s also important to check noise traveling out of the noisy plant area as well. If personnel in other parts of the plant complain, you should investigate and measure the levels of the sound they hear. If plant neighbors complain, or if local authorities say the sound exceeds applicable noise ordinances, a problem may exist and measurements are called for.

Once A Noise Problem is Identified

Remember that the sound is a form of energy. Your goal therefore is to reduce the amount of sound energy released by the noise source, or divert the flow of (sound) energy away from the receiver, or protect the receiver from the (sound) energy reaching the person. In other words, all noise controls work at the noise source, along the noise path, or at the receiver.

Once you have identified and measured the source of noise, you are ready to consider what can be done to control the noise. When you can’t modify the equipment itself to mitigate the noise, the next best options are to block and absorb the sound using modern soundproofing systems.

insustrial plant 2 guys workingThe presence of reflecting surfaces (walls, floors, ceilings, and equipment) in an industrial workplace results in the build-up of sound levels in the reverberant field. By controlling the reflected sound (i.e. by preventing the reflections), reverberant field sound levels can be reduced. Generally, the reflections are prevented by use of these acoustically absorbent materials applied directly to wall or ceiling surfaces or suspended from the ceiling.

The key to noise control is finding the control that is both effective and fits your budget. You should know not only what controls can work, but also know how costly the controls are to design and install.

CadnaARAcoustiblok12BESTSome acoustical soundproofing companies, like Acoustiblok, use leading noise prediction software, such as DataKustik’s Cadna-A and Cadna-R, to develop acoustical models of the soundproofing solution being proposed before it is purchased and installed for some complex noise problems.





Tags: industrial noise absorbant, industrial generator noise, industrial pump noise, industrial noise, industrial noise pollution, industrial fan noise, industrial chiller noise, indoor noise

U.S. CDC Study Links Highway Noise Pollution to Widespread Sleep Disturbances, Risk of Heart Attack and High Blood Pressure

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Jul 24, 2013 12:44:00 PM

 living with highway noise

A study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 2.3 percent of people in Fulton County, Ga., (where Atlanta is), are exposed to significant levels of highway noise that can disrupt sleep. Extrapolated to other urban areas, this research suggests that rates of such sleep disturbances could be very high in the United States – and annoyance and sleep disruption from road traffic noise have been connected to health problems such as heart attacks and hypertension. 

The study also concluded that the results indicate that it may be important for the public's health to update existing noise-related policies or develop new ones to control and abate noise concerns in urban communities.

Traffic Noise Sleep Disruption Pullout Box 1The study appeared in the October 2012 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine under the title “Road Traffic Noise: Annoyance, Sleep Disturbance, and Public Health Implications,” by Minho Kim and colleagues. Researchers studied traffic noise levels in Fulton County from 2009 to 2011 and predicted that "109,967 people would be at risk of being highly annoyed, with 19,621 people at risk for high sleep disturbance” in the county. Data analysis was performed in 2010–2011.

The study used a sound-propagation model for noise-level prediction and derived noise-impact indicators for annoyance and sleep disturbance from exposure-response models. Then, annoyed and sleep-disturbed populations were predicted with the use of each noise-impact indicator.

This study demonstrated that urban communities in the U.S. might be at risk of high exposures to road traffic noise. However, more studies will be required to gain insights into the severity of road traffic noise in U.S. urban communities that is related to populations with high levels of annoyance and sleep disturbance.

sleep problemsThe World Health Organization has recognized environmental noise as harmful pollution that causes adverse psychosocial and physiologic effects (i.e., annoyance and sleep disturbance) on human health. In Europe, noise-related health studies have been actively conducted, but the U.S. has lagged behind in this research field.

Previous Traffic Noise Research in the U.S.

The U.S. vigorously conducted noise-related research during the 1970s, following the Noise Control Act of 1972. The Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) coordinated all noise abatement and control programs in the nation. The ONAC's research activities were codified in the Quiet Communities Act of 1978, which established noise sources that are subject to regulation and noise emission standards. Because federal funding for ONAC was discontinued in 1981, noise abatement programs have been shifted to state and local governments.  Since then, there have been few recent studies assessing the impact of road traffic noise on health in the U.S.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the U.S. Census Bureau conducted an American Housing Survey (AHS) for 38 metropolitan areas, including metropolitan Atlanta. The survey included noise-related questions. In approximately 29% of target household units, respondents indicated that they felt the impact of street or traffic noise.

Highway right outside your windowHow Severe Are the Potential Impacts of Ground Vehicular Traffic Noise in Other Large U.S. Cities?

These results give rise to the following question: how severe are the potential impacts of ground vehicular traffic noise in other large U.S. urban communities? The summary of the American Housing Survey (AHS) from the U.S. Census Bureau provides a partial answer to this question. It summarizes data from the AHS questions of vehicular traffic noise on the street for 38 metropolitan areas, focusing on the percentage of noise presence, the percentage of those who deemed it bothersome, and the percentage of those who want to move because of being bothered by noise. 

Taking into account the summary, the current research results, and the fact that the Atlanta metropolitan area had the lowest percentage of households (14%) reporting the presence of road traffic noise among all surveyed households, it may be assumed that even more people would be annoyed in other densely populated U.S. metropolitan areas.

Read the entire Foulton County, Ga., traffic noise study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine at:






Tags: effects of noise pollution, sleep depravation, traffic noise pollution, highway noise effects, traffic noise, health effects of noise, Noise pollution