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United States Environmental Protection Agency - Bibliography of Noise Publications 1972-1982

The Urban Noise Survey
August 1, 1977

Most of the existing social survey data base on community annoyance has been in character and has been concerned primarily with airport and highway related noise. An essential element in assessing the impact of noise in urban areas away from airports and highways is the evaluation of the attitudes of people concerning the noise in the residential environment. A social survey was conducted to sample opinion over the entire range of noise exposure and population density characteristics of non-rural America.The objective of the Urban Noise Survey was to develop a first order relationship between noise exposure and human response as a function of situational and attitudinal variables associated with the life styles of people in various urban environments. This survey differed from prior surveys in the general area of noise pollution in several important aspects: (1) it was specifically designed to study noise exposure not directly related to airport and highway sources; (2) the social survey was made in conjunction with simultaneous physical measurements of noise exposure at sites with widely different noise environments; (3) it was national rather than local in character and was addressed to a broad rather than narrow range of noise exposures and respondents' life styles. Some of the major conclusions are that: (a) exposure to noise typical of many urban (non-aircraft and non-highway) environments produces widespread annoyance, speech interference, and sleep disturbance; (b) a strong relationship was demonstrated between exposure level and the proportion of a community highly annoyed by noise; (c) the prevalence of speech interference is an especially good predictor of annoyance; (d) the number of complaints about noise is a poor predictor of the prevalence of annoyance; (e) demographic factors alone are relatively poor predictors of noise annoyance; (f) freedom from noise exposure is a component of a neighborhood satisfaction, and quiet is highly valued; (g) noises associated with automotive sources are the most pervasive sources of annoying noise in urban areas; (h) annoyance associated with intrusive noise sources may be related to measurable noise exposure from such sources, even when their magnitudes are not as great as the level of overall exposure in a community; (i) there is some evidence that human response to noise exposure at Ldn values in excess of 70 dB is more acute than at lower levels.