“We all know that we have to do something about the noise problem in our cities, but what?”
“What if we started to think of noise as if it was a moral failing rather than a technical problem? What if we decided that this is a social problem, and that’s why it needs to be solved collectively? Let’s build a system to help us fix it together.”
The idea for this discussion came from two authors, John Ashcroft and Francesco Salsedo.
The Impacts of Noise Pollution on Urban Communities
In recent years there has been a lot of media attention on the various impacts of noise pollution on urban environments, especially on those within cities. A number of studies have sought to understand the environmental implications of various levels of noise. It is important to highlight that there are further impacts beyond the immediate acoustic impact, such as the effects on people’s health and quality of life.
There are several factors at play here:
• The level at which noise is emitted (engineered or natural)
• The type of noise (for example, in an urban environment, a car horn or loud music will be much louder than a jet plane)
• The location in an urban environment where the sound originates (the distance between two points means how hard this sound is amplified)
• How frequently different types of noise are emitted – for example a car horn might be heard every day or all day long
• What type of building it is inside (residential areas have more effects due to construction activities and are often bad news)
While some studies have focused on only one or two factors, it is clear that these multiple factors make it difficult to isolate any single factor from all the others. An example from an academic paper: “Horn use behaviour is affected by many other key factors including gender, age group and location.” This highlights another point about research – we need more research! We need more studies to look at multiple sources and not just one (for example finding out why small children like car horns). So for this post I am going to highlight three studies that attempted to answer these questions.
1) The Impact of Noise Levels on Pedestrian Accessibility in Port Elizabeth , South Africa by Chris Naiden et al., published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2012. The study looked at how different types of sounds impacted people’s ability to walk across city streets and found that when noises were high enough levels hearing loss was 9% higher than when they were low enough levels hearing loss was only 3% higher
2) Traffic Noise Pollution Study , published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2013. The researchers looked at how different types of sounds impacted people’s ability to walk across city streets and found that when noises were high enough levels hearing loss was 9% higher than when they were low enough levels hearing loss was only 3% higher
3) Effects Of Noise On Vocal Cord Hearing Loss In South Africa , published
The Path to a Quieter City
Noise is a real problem. And its effects are felt in cities all around the world every day. But it’s not just an urban issue, it’s a global one too. It is a major contributor to climate change (the impacts of noise on cities can be substantial). And it is a huge cost to urban economies around the world.
However, we have spent most of our time trying to fix noise pollution in our own backyards and we have barely begun to break into the global conversation about how to get noise out of cities.
So here’s a new path: We should start by seriously discussing what noise pollution actually means and how we can work towards reducing it as both individuals and as a society. We should also try to think through what other problems are connected with noise pollution and consider making changes together with local authorities and researchers.
In the end, if we want results that last for generations, it is going to require waves of people working together now, rather than waiting for someone else – like governments – to do the hard work for us.
“Noise pollution” is the term used to refer to the “problem of excessive noise in cities”. It is not an easy problem to solve, as it involves both human and non-human factors. It is important to note that no single model for noise pollution exists, and each city has a very different set of issues.
But as environmental noise pollution increases in most modern cities, especially during nighttime hours, it has become harder for humans to ignore the issue and make decisions about their behavior without having this information at their disposal. This is what makes it very hard for individual decision makers (e.g., businesses) to decide how much noise they want from other parties (e.g., neighbors).
The solution is not simple: there are many different models for reducing noise pollution, such as using sound barriers, building effective zoning regulations, or even rewarding neighbors who keep quiet(!). But one thing all these solutions have in common is that they reduce exposure to noise by making it less audible.