Sound annoyance is "a feeling of displeasure associated with any agent or condition [related to sound] that is believed to affect adversely an individual or a group".
Impact on health and well-being
Annoyance implies a negative factor on an individual's well-being and comfort. Its effects may include physiological responses, central nervous system reactions, and biochemical changes.
Physiological reactions to sound annoyance include increased heart rate and increased blood pressure which, among others, may lead to hypertension. Hearing impairment, such as increased hearing threshold, and tinnitus are considered as another possible consequence of sound annoyance.
Biochemical changes due to sound annoyance include increased secretion of epinephrine, which is related to the 'fight'-reaction (See fight-or-flight response) and increased adrenal cortical activity (see adrenal cortex), which is related to intense and/or stressful events.
Epidemological investigations have shown that the negative effects of sound annoyance include "a feeling of resentment, displeasure, dissatisfaction, discomfort or offence when noise interferes with someones thoughts, feelings or actual activities". Besides that, unwanted sounds can mask the positive indicators of safety . These factors may diminish well-bing of people that suffer from sound annoyance. Other factors that correlate with sound annoyance are increased absence form work, sleep disturbance, and interference with performing cognitive tasks like paying attention at school.
For a more detailed article about health effects: health effects from noise.
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The European Union (EU) set up European guidelines in respect to noise pollution. For nighttime, it is advised to not exceed the 40 dB Lnight threshold. An interim threshold of 55 dB Lnight is set as an upper bound, because above this limit, (sleeping) disorders are more prevalent. However, about 20% of people living in or near urban areas suffer from sounds at night that exceed even the interim threshold.
Law in the Netherlands
Sound annoyance is a subjective matter and cannot be covered by law. In the Netherlands the government set up laws to protect households and other noise-sensitive buildings like hospitals and schools from noise pollution. There are different laws for different sound sources; airplanes, traffic, industry and neighbours.
Traffic and industry are clustered together and are subdivided into four categories; road traffic inside urban areas, outside urban areas, railway traffic and industrial noise. All four of these categories have a ‘preferred limit’ and a ‘specified limit’. The preferred limit, the ‘lower bound’, is not to be exceeded in the planned noise of a new highway, railway or industry. When this system exceeds the lower bound nonetheless, a municipal exemption can be given when appealed to the interim "urban and environmental approach". The specified limit, also called the ‘upper bound’ can only be exceeded exceptionally. The municipal exemption is insufficient in this case.
The laws for aviation induced noise at the main airport of the Netherlands, Schiphol, state that the volume of sounds produced by airplanes may not be higher than 63,46 dB(A) and at different (mostly residential) areas around Schiphol there are specific limits for the noise levels that are allowed. An overview of the locations and their noise limits can be found here:. The sound limits of these locations are reevaluated every year.
- T. Lindvall & E. P. Radford. Measurement of annoyance due to exposure to environmental factors(1973). Academic Press Inc.
- World Health Organisation(WHO). Burden of disease from environmental noise(2011)
- W. Passchier-Vermeer & W.F. Passchier. Noise Exposure and public health (2000). Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol 108, Supplement 1
- Andringa, T. & Lanser, J. Geluidshinder: Oorzaak en effect. Soundscape onderzoek TT circuit en omgeving. 2012
- Tristán E., I. Pavón, and J.M. López. Evaluation of psychoacoustic annoyance and perception of noise annoyance inside university facilities. Int. J. Acoust. Vib. [In Press].