Noise Facts

Noise Facts

Noise and Health

Noise and the Law

Noise and the Bully

Noise, Law & the Bully

Noise and Crime

Noise as Weapon



Advocacy Groups

Noise Experts


Neighborhood Noise: Serious Health Endangerment

Noise can affect the neurological system directly or indirectly through subjective experience (disturbance, annoyance). The consequences are vegetative reactions such as the reduction of the skin's resistance or changes in heartbeat frequency, as well as changed concentrations of the activation hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol in body fluids. In this way, metabolic procedures, the regulation of vital body functions and the immune system can be influenced….

In adults, chronic annoyance by neighbourhood noise was related to increased risks for the cardiovascular system….Significantly increased risks appeared for cardiovascular symptoms and hypertension in conjunction with severe and chronic annoyance by neighbourhood noise. The trend within the annoyance categories was likewise significant….

…The risk of bronchitis appeared significantly increased….

Pronounced effects of severe and chronic annoyance by neighbourhood noise were obvious in the stress-sensitive musculoskeletal system [Figure - 15]. Highly increased significant risks were calculated for arthritic symptoms as well as for arthritis. The trend within the annoyance categories was highly significant….

Distinctive effects on the neuro-psychic system were also registered with chronic annoyance by neighbourhood noise [Figure - 16]. The trend for depression (SALSA) as well as medically diagnosed depressions significantly increases with severe and chronic annoyance by neighbourhood noise. The trend within the annoyance categories was highly significant. Beyond that, a highly increased risk of migraine was confirmed with severe and chronic annoyance by neighbourhood noise. The trend within the annoyance categories was here also highly significant.

The results of the LARES study in relation to severe annoyance by neighbourhood noise demonstrate that neighbourhood noise must be classified as a serious health endangerment for adults.

The biological plausibility is at hand due to knowledge from psychophysiology as well as psychosomatic medicine and by results of the research on emotional activation and stress research.  The causality is furthermore supported by dose-effect relationships. Thus the relative risks for cardiovascular impairments (hypertension, cardiovascular symptoms) are clearly increased during chronically severe noise annoyance; during a moderate noise annoyance the risks are less or not different to the reference group. For respiratory impairments (bronchitis, respiratory symptoms), a clear increased risk is registered in conjunction with severe noise annoyance.... Also the risk for arthritis, depressions and migraine rises during chronic noise annoyance in the sense of a dose-effect relationship. The multifarious dose-effect relationships strongly support the acceptance of causality....

In principle, the medical evaluation of the results of the LARES Study must assume that a strong chronic noise annoyance produces psychological stress in the sense of negative emotionality, which is expressed in annoyance, fear, hopelessness, helplessness, aversion, rage or despair. The emotional forms of expressions can be converted into reactions that show up in the neural, hormonal and immune systems, as well as in the basic substance of the extracellular matrix (connective tissue). …Chronic emotional stress can cause increased production of endogenous opiate (endorphine, enkephaline). This can result in the inhibition of immune system processes, for example, the activity of killer cells. Ader and assistants lay great importance on conditioning procedures in this connection and describe the influence of a changed psycho-neuroimmunological process on the emergence of asthma. According to Miltner et al.,disturbed psycho-neuroimmunology has to be taken into account in relation to depression. They found clear changes in all of the examined immune parameters, especially in cases of helplessness and hopelessness. What must also be considered in association with the emergence of the diseases mentioned above is the basic substance of the extra cellular matrix, which is considered the underlying system for the basic regularization of a highly developed organism and which is also the location of the non-specific immune system.

Permanent or chronically repeating short-term distress can lead to dysfunctions in the basic substance of the extra cellular matrix so that fibroblasts synthesize unphysiological collagen structures. In this way distress can lead to unspecified pre-aging of the entire connective tissue in the form of a sclerosis. Hauss et al. could demonstrate
that after laboratory animals exposed to noise, a sclerosis resulted within a short time due to increased collagen synthesis by fibroblasts. The effects of chronic noise exposure on the immune system of mice are additionally reported.

The health effects of permanent noise stress can reveal themselves ten to fifteen years later in different functional systems.

Table 2: Relative risks for illnesses/disease symptoms with adults because of chronic annoyance by traffic or neighbourhood noise:

Niemann H, Bonnefoy X, Braubach M, Hecht K, Maschke C, Rodrigues C, Robbel N. Noise-induced annoyance and morbidity results from the pan-European LARES study. Noise Health [serial online] 2006;8:63-79. Available from:

Detrimental Health Effects of Low Frequency Noise

It is well established that the annoyance due to a given noise source is perceived very differently from person to person.  For many humans, their ears are not very sensitive to low levels of low frequency sound. At low frequencies, however, noise may not be perceived as sound but rather is "felt" as a vibration or pressure sensation….

In an epidemiological survey of sufferers from low frequency noise, the following health effects were documented.  Comparisons were made between a test group of people who lived with low frequency noise in their homes, and a control group of individuals not regularly exposed to LFN. (Mirowska and Mroz. 2000) 


Test Group (%)

Control Group (%)

chronic fatigue



heart ailments



chronic insomnia



repeated headaches



ear, neck and back aches



ear, eye and other pressure



shortness of breath



irritation, nerves, anxiety



frustration, depression and indecision



Mirowska, M., and Mroz, E.  2000.  "Effect of low frequency noise at low levels on human health in light of questionnaire investigation," Proc. Inter-Noise 2000, 5, 2809 - 2812. Cited in Leventhall. 2003.

Health effects due to low-frequency components in noise are estimated to be more severe than for community noises in general (Berglund et al. 1996).

World Health Organization. “Guidelines for Community Noise: 3. Adverse health effects of noise.” 1999.  <>.

At frequencies below 10 Hz the internal organs definitely start to resonate, but between 10 and 100 Hz the presence of a low-frequency sound probably can be just as much felt as heard.

…The “Danish guidelines on environmental low frequency noise, infrasound and vibration”, latest update 2002(Litt 5). Like other guidelines, this one takes the view that in order to avoid effects, low frequency sounds should be below the hearing threshold.

Influence of Low Frequency Noise on Health and Well Being. Martin Van den Berg, Ministry of Environment, The Hague, Netherlands. Feb. 11, 2005.

Detrimental health effects

Noise is detrimental to health in several respects, for example, hearing impairment, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular effects, psychophysiologic effects, psychiatric symptoms, and fetal development (Stansfeld et al. 2000). Furthermore, noise has widespread psychosocial effects including noise annoyance, reduced performance, and increased aggressive behavior [American Academy of Pediatrics 1997; World Health Organization (WHO) 2001]….

Among other nonauditory health end points, short-term changes in circulation (including blood pressure, heart rate, cardiac output, and vasoconstriction) as well as in levels of stress hormones (including epinephrine, norepinephrine, and corticosteroids) have been studied in experimental settings for many years (Babisch 2003; Berglund and Lindvall 1995). From this, the hypothesis emerged that persistent noise stress increases the risk of cardiovascular disorders including high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease….

Wolfgang Babisch is a senior research officer at the German Federal Environmental Agency. His research focus is on noise epidemiology, particularly the auditory and nonauditory health effects of noise. He is a member of the International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise.

Babisch, Wolfgang. “Guest Editorial: Noise and Health.” Environmental Health Perspectives. 113.1 (2005): A14.

There are adverse physical and mental effects from noise. For example, prolonged periods of exposure to 65 dBA can cause mental and bodily fatigue. Furthermore, noise can affect the quantity and quality of sleep; cause permanent hearing damage; contribute to the development or aggravation of heart and circulatory diseases; and transform a person's initial annoyance into more extreme emotional responses and behavior.[7]

[7]  Marsh, A. 1999. University of Western Australia, School of Architecture and Fine Arts. Cited in East of Huajatolla Citizens Alliance. Noise.  

Non-auditory health effects

Some non-auditory effects of noise are: Cardiovascular constriction, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, more laboured breathing, measurable changes in skin resistance and skeletal muscle tension, digestive system changes, glandular activity altering the chemical content of blood and urine, vestibular effect, balance sense effect, changes in brain chemistry and more....  
-Dr. Luther Terry - Former US Surgeon General  

The New Mexico Game and Fish has stated that even for human beings in a recreational setting, low frequency noise has been shown to cause stress reactions including
raised blood pressure and increased muscle tension.    

Cognitive health effects

Among the cognitive effects, reading, attention, problem solving and memory are most strongly affected by noise.

World Health Organization. “Guidelines for Community Noise: 3. Adverse health effects of noise.” 1999.  <>.

Vulnerable Groups

These and other results show the importance of taking vulnerable groups into account, because they may not be able to cope sufficiently with unwanted environmental noise (e.g. Stansfeld 1992). This is particularly true of children, the elderly and people with preexisting illnesses, especially depression (IEH 1997).

World Health Organization. “Guidelines for Community Noise: 3. Adverse health effects of noise.” 1999. <>.

Residential Behavior

Noise can produce a number of social and behavioural effects in residents, besides annoyance (for review see Berglund & Lindvall 1995). The social and behavioural effects are often complex, subtle and indirect. Many of the effects are assumed to be the result of interactions with a number of non-auditory variables. Social and behavioural effects include changes in overt everyday behaviour patterns (e.g. closing windows, not using balconies, turning TV and radio to louder levels, writing petitions, complaining to authorities); adverse changes in social behaviour (e.g. aggression, unfriendliness, disengagement, non-participation); adverse changes in social indicators (e.g. residential mobility, hospital admissions, drug consumption, accident rates); and changes in mood (e.g. less happy, more depressed).

World Health Organization. “Guidelines for Community Noise: 3. Adverse health effects of noise.” 1999. <>.

Proceedings, Low Frequency 2004: 11th International Meeting on Low Frequency Noise and Vibration and its Control. Maastricht, Netherlands, 30 August - 1 September 2004. Tempest, W. and Leventhall, H.G. eds. Dec. 2004.

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Page 288: In LFN- exposed rats, the epithelia tissue of the trachea features cellular de-differentiation, which is a technical term for pre-cancerous lesions. ...

Page 290: PICTURES SPEAK A THOUSAND WORDS These images were obtained with scanning electron microscopy, and depict the tracheal epithelium of Wistar rats,….


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Disturbing effects of low frequency sound immissions and vibrations in residential buildings (2004)
Findeis H, Peters E. Brandenburg State Environmental Agency, Germany;year=2004;volume=6;issue=23;spage=29;epage=35;aulast=Findeis

There were reports by a number of trustworthy persons on how they at first - for instance when moving into the flat - did not even notice any immissions. But in the course of a few weeks they began to perceive them distinctly and became intolerable after continued exposure. It was obvious that in these cases a sensibility of specific noise components had developed. Thus, it is understandable that non-exposed persons were at a difficulty to even acknowledge such noise immissions.

It is emphasised that in the frequency range above approximately 20 Hz there may occur, due to sound radiation from the inner wall surfaces of a room, highly disturbing effects even if the magnitude of the vibrations is distinctly below the perceptive threshold of humans. According to the observations as demonstrated, these immissions ought to be given special attention in the future.[7]


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