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      WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region: A Systematic Review on Environmental Noise and Annoyance


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          Background: This paper describes a systematic review and meta-analyses on effects of environmental noise on annoyance. The noise sources include aircraft, road, and rail transportation noise as well as wind turbines and noise source combinations. Objectives: Update knowledge about effects of environmental noise on people living in the vicinity of noise sources. Methods: Eligible were published studies (2000–2014) providing comparable acoustical and social survey data including exposure-response functions between standard indicators of noise exposure and standard annoyance responses. The systematic literature search in 20 data bases resulted in 62 studies, of which 57 were used for quantitative meta-analyses. By means of questionnaires sent to the study authors, additional study data were obtained. Risk of bias was assessed by means of study characteristics for individual studies and by funnel plots to assess the risk of publication bias. Main Results: Tentative exposure-response relations for percent highly annoyed residents (%HA) in relation to noise levels for aircraft, road, rail, wind turbine and noise source combinations are presented as well as meta-analyses of correlations between noise levels and annoyance raw scores, and the OR for increase of %HA with increasing noise levels. Quality of evidence was assessed using the GRADE terminology. The evidence of exposure-response relations between noise levels and %HA is moderate (aircraft and railway) or low (road traffic and wind turbines). The evidence of correlations between noise levels and annoyance raw scores is high (aircraft and railway) or moderate (road traffic and wind turbines). The evidence of ORs representing the %HA increase by a certain noise level increase is moderate (aircraft noise), moderate/high (road and railway traffic), and low (wind turbines). Strengths and Limitations: The strength of the evidence is seen in the large total sample size encompassing the included studies (e.g., 18,947 participants in aircraft noise studies). Main limitations are due to the variance in the definition of noise levels and %HA. Interpretation: The increase of %HA in newer studies of aircraft, road and railway noise at comparable L den levels of earlier studies point to the necessity of adjusting noise limit recommendations. Funding: The review was funded by WHO Europe.

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          Most cited references 41

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          Annoyance from transportation noise: relationships with exposure metrics DNL and DENL and their confidence intervals.

          We present a model of the distribution of noise annoyance with the mean varying as a function of the noise exposure. Day-night level (DNL) and day-evening-night level (DENL) were used as noise descriptors. Because the entire annoyance distribution has been modeled, any annoyance measure that summarizes this distribution can be calculated from the model. We fitted the model to data from noise annoyance studies for aircraft, road traffic, and railways separately. Polynomial approximations of relationships implied by the model for the combinations of the following exposure and annoyance measures are presented: DNL or DENL, and percentage "highly annoyed" (cutoff at 72 on a scale of 0-100), percentage "annoyed" (cutoff at 50 on a scale of 0-100), or percentage (at least) "a little annoyed" (cutoff at 28 on a scale of 0-100). These approximations are very good, and they are easier to use for practical calculations than the model itself, because the model involves a normal distribution. Our results are based on the same data set that was used earlier to establish relationships between DNL and percentage highly annoyed. In this paper we provide better estimates of the confidence intervals due to the improved model of the relationship between annoyance and noise exposure. Moreover, relationships using descriptors other than DNL and percentage highly annoyed, which are presented here, have not been established earlier on the basis of a large dataset.
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              Synthesis of social surveys on noise annoyance.

              Since noise was first recognized as a serious environmental pollutant, a number of social surveys have been conducted in order to assess the magnitude of the problem and to develop suitable noise ratings, such that, from a measurement of certain physical characteristics of community noise, one could reliably predict the community's subjective response to the noise. Recently, the author has reviewed the data from social surveys concerning the noise of aircraft, street traffic, expressway traffic, and railroads. Going back to the original published data, the various survey noise ratings were translated to day-night average sound level, and an independent judgment was make, where choice was possible, as to which respondents should be counted as "highly annoyed." The results of 11 of these surveys show a remarkable consistency. It is proposed that the average of these curves is the best currently available relationship for predicting community annoyance due to transportation noise of all kinds.

                Author and article information

                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                08 December 2017
                December 2017
                : 14
                : 12
                [1 ]Department of Psychology, Ruhr-University Bochum, 44801 Bochum, Germany
                [2 ]ZEUS GmbH, Zentrum für Angewandte Psychologie, Umwelt- und Sozialforschung, Sennbrink 46, 58093 Hagen, Germany; schreckenberg@ 123456zeusgmbh.de
                [3 ]Independent Researcher, 58095 Hagen, Germany; ar-schuemer@ 123456t-online.de
                Author notes
                © 2017 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


                Public health

                traffic noise, environment, annoyance, surveys, exposure-response, meta-analysis


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