Noise & Health

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Noise can cause annoyance and fatigue, interfere with communication and sleep, reduce efficiency and damage hearing. The World Health Organisation recommends a guideline level of 30 dB LAeq for undisturbed sleep, and a daytime level for outdoor sound levels of 50dB to prevent people from becoming “moderately annoyed”.

Physiological effects of exposure to noise include constriction of blood vessels, tightening of muscles, increased heart rate and blood pressure and changes in stomach and abdomen movement. The effects of exposure to noise are personal as hearing sensitivity varies. Exposure to constant or very loud noise – either occupational or leisure – can cause temporary or permanent damage to hearing.

There is an increasing body of research linking prolonged exposure to transport noise to health impacts. A major impact of noise is sleep disturbance – and disrupted sleep has been linked to effects on cardiac health. A number of reports have made direct links between transport noise and cardiac health. Most work carried out has looked at impacts of aviation noise. There are links between children’s concentration too. Much of this work has been carried out in Europe.

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