Tolerance for aircraft noise remains unchanged

The annoyance response of different communities to aircraft noise has always been difficult to predict. However, in recent years, many studies report extremely high levels of annoyance for the given noise exposure levels. This has led to the belief that people are nowadays less tolerant to aircraft noise than they were a few decades ago.

We’ve looked at the results of 57 aircraft noise surveys conducted between 1961 and 2015, and found that people’s tolerance to aircraft noise hasn’t changed at all.

However, in order to reach this conclusion, we need to divide the airport surveys into two categories. In one group, we have the surveys where airport conditions were quite stable, which generally means that the residents have only experienced a steady growth in traffic over a long period of time. These residents are very tolerant to noise. In the other group, we have the airports where abrupt changes (like the addition of a new runway, or the construction of a completely new airport) have occurred, or are planned. Residents that live near such airports tend to be less tolerant to noise. On average, the residents in the group with relatively stable conditions tolerate about 8 dB higher noise levels than people in the group with step-wise changes.

Our results have been published at the INTER-NOISE 2015 conference as a paper which can be downloaded here. Its abstract is as follows:

Temporal trends in aircraft noise annoyance

Truls Gjestland, Femke B Gelderblom, Sanford Fidell, Bernard Berry

Several recently published studies have investigated potential temporal trends in aircraft noise annoyance. Some of these studies suggest that people nowadays react more strongly to aircraft noise – by as much as an order of magnitude – than they did in the 1960s. Other studies have failed to detect such a trend, or attributed it to differences in survey methods, noise estimation methods, airport operations, and other factors that do not affect energy-weighted exposure levels. This paper analyzes Community Tolerance Level (CTL) values from 57 studies on aircraft noise annoyance conducted between 1961 and 2014 for trends over time.

Conclusions of analyses of temporal trends were found to be highly dependent on classification of studies based on the occurrence or anticipation of a step change in the noise exposure situation. Most studies of community reaction to actual or anticipated step changes in aircraft noise exposure have been conducted relatively recently, and report less tolerance for noise. Inclusion of such studies in temporal trend analyses produces questionable conclusions about increases in aircraft noise-induced annoyance over time. The current study found no evidence suggesting a need to revise existing dose-response curves to reflect a putative trend toward greater sensitivity to noise exposure in recent decades.

Image taken from AP via Die Tageszeitung