As our towns and cities quieten, how is this likely to affect our noise tolerance in the future?

As our towns and cities quieten, how is this likely to affect our noise tolerance in the future?

As towns and cities around the globe fall eerily silent, it is worth reflecting upon our relationship with noise and its impact on our daily lives.

We know that the world is growing increasingly noisy. We can see this through the increased litigation in this area and through greater regulatory restrictions put on noisy activities, from industrial and construction sites, right through to entertainment venues. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road traffic is the single biggest cause of community noise in most cities, with typical noise levels increasing with higher traffic volumes and speeds. Last October we wrote that 'Nuisance noise is no longer an acceptable part of city living' - you can read the full article here.

According to the findings of the WHO research, noise is the second largest environmental cause of health problems - second only to the impact of poor air quality, which is alarming. Prolonged exposure to environmental noise is responsible for a whole range of negative health effects, including increased risk of ischemic heart disease as well as sleep disturbance, annoyance, stress-related mental health risks and tinnitus. In fact, the WHO declared noise pollution to be "an underestimated threat" that can cause hearing loss, cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment, stress and depression. People who are in pain or who live with chronic pain are more susceptible to noise pollution.

As interventions are required to reduce environmental noise, cities are turning to smart technology to manage noise levels and reduce the impact it has on communities. As the global trend of urbanisation intensifies, the neighbourhood lines between residential and commercial are blurring. This is actually a positive thing from a placemaking perspective, however, it brings its own particular challenges. For example, night-time deliveries in cities are now negatively impacting residents in a more pronounced and unsustainable way. The team at Sonitus Systems recently worked with the city of Stockholm in Sweden to facilitate overnight deliveries by reducing the noise associated with lorry deliveries in the city centre. You can read more about this pilot project here.

Other examples of urban noise that is no longer being tolerated by residents is aircraft noise. This has been a particular headache (pardon the pun) for Ireland's main airport. Nuisance noise complaints in 2019 reached unprecedented levels, increasing by 82 percent. We covered this in detail in the following article: Aircraft noise and protecting communities.

Other relevant articles include:

In the past, noise was considered a part of contemporary urban life, however, as the negative health implications of prolonged exposure to excessive noise mount, this is no longer acceptable. As we experience weeks (possibly months?) of near silence in our towns, cities and airspace, it begs the question - are people likely to be even less tolerant of noise in the future?

Sonitus Systems supply robust and reliable sound level monitoring equipment globally from their base in Dublin. Their award-winning products and services allow users to easily monitor and assess noise levels in any scenario to ensure compliance. For more information, call the Sonitus Systems team on +353 1 6778443 or email

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