Noise and Society
What You Should Know
Previous research in the United States and Britain has shown that when ten people are exposed to loud noise, only two will complain to officials. Researchers discovered that the other eight let it pass. Not because they were not upset; they were, but because they felt complaining would do no good. Not so today. Today, people are raising concerns about noise at a growing rate. The popular press has published much information on the links between noise and our health, and noise and the deterioration of our quality of life.
It could be that we are so stressed as a society that people are reaching for any way to get more "peace and quiet". Think of real estate ads for a moment; they always advertise "quiet street", they never say "a nice noisy street". And don't think that noise is a recent concern. Noise bylaws were in place in Greek and Roman times. Consider this quote from Roman poet Juvenal: "How much sleep, I ask you, can one get in lodging here... The wagons thundering past, the shouts of draymen caught in traffic - these alone suffice to jolt the doziest sea-cow of an emperor into permanent wakefulness".
When Is Noise A Problem?
Noise is "unwanted sound". Any sound from any source whatsoever: human, animal or thing, can produce "unreasonable noise". The saying that "one person's music is another person's noise" is irrelevant.
If any sound is:
- Routine and predictable for long periods of time (week after week) or is occasional but excessive.
- Distracts and/or restricts you from the normal use of property (owned or rented).
- Would disturb a "reasonable person".
... then you have a noise problem.
Some General Advice
- Many people are disturbed by all noise. We must be "reasonable", meaning no one is entitled to absolute quiet, particularly in urban areas. Since we all benefit from technology, a certain leeway is required when we object to noise. The more public the noise ie. planes, transit etc., the lower your chance of a successful fight (presently).
- Determining when noise is disturbing is highly subjective. In both enforcement and civil law, there is NO consistency of interpretation, collecting evidence, presentations or rulings in court. There are no national or international standards or procedures. So your chances of resolving a noise concern will always be unpredictable.
- KEY: Proving that your health has been negatively affected is the key to winning! This is a new angle; before, loss of use of property was the only criterion.
- Unfortunately, most enforcement groups do not take noise complaints seriously. Due to budget cutbacks, noise enforcement will be further reduced.
Noise has always had an image problem; of not being a credible issue. Perhaps because we can't see it, we don't take it as seriously as air or water pollution. Noise pollution is increasing each year and doubling every ten years. No one is monitoring the cumulative amount of noise pollution. There are three ingredients in the equation that make noise a growing health and social problem:
- Urban intensification (living closer together, less acoustical privacy).
- Technology (stereos, leaf blowers, jet skis, planes, consumer product etc.).
- Erosion of social consideration for others and the rise of individual rights versus community rights (I'll do what I want on my property thank-you...).
Factor these together and you get a lethal mix. People kill each other over noise. There are approximately forty- five noise-related murders a year in Britain. Noise drives people to assault each other, trespass on and vandalize others' property. Uncalculated millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on noise enforcement, civil and criminal court cases, hospital bills, purchase of soundproofing products and services, doctor's care due to stress, and on and on. Noise problems continue to escalate in our modern world. We must unite, develop noise-reduction strategies, and pave the way for a quieter way of life.
Last Updated: 11-Feb-2000
© 2000 NoiseWatch