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close this bookFact sheet No 258: Occupational and Community Noise - February 2001 (WHO, 2001, 5 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentHealth impact
View the documentSound and the ear
View the documentCommunity noise
View the documentOccupational noise
View the documentOccupational exposure limits
View the documentWHO response

WHO response

WHO has responded in two main ways: by developing and promoting the concept of noise management, and by drawing up community noise guidelines. The field is marked by a scarcity of literature, especially for developing countries. Some 20 years after its last publication on noise, WHO has issued Guidelines for Community Noise. This publication, the outcome of a WHO expert task force meeting in London in March 1999, includes guideline values for community noise (listing also critical health effects ranging from annoyance to hearing impairment), for example: (ref Guidelines p. XVIII)


Critical health effect

Sound level dB(A)*

Time hours

Outdoor living areas


50 - 55


Indoor dwellings

Speech intelligibility




Sleep disturbance



School classrooms

Disturbance of communication


During class

Industrial, commercial and traffic areas

Hearing impairment



Music through earphones

Hearing impairment



Ceremonies and entertainment

Hearing impairment



*The ear has different sensitivities to different frequencies, being least sensitive to extremely high and extremely low frequencies. (ref Fundamentals of Acoustics p. 19) Because of this varied sensitivity, the term "A weighting" is used: all the different frequencies, that make up the sound, are assessed to give a sound pressure level. The sound pressure level measured in dB is referred to as "A-weighted" and expressed as dB(A). (ref Guidelines p.IX and X).

The guidelines also offer recommendations to governments for implementation, such as extending (and enforcing) existing legislation and including community noise in environmental impact assessments. The role of WHO is to provide leadership and technical support.

The Internet address for the Guidelines for Community Noise is

For further information, journalists can contact Office of the Spokesperson, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791 25 99. Fax (+41 22) 791 4858. Email: All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page

© WHO/OMS, 2000