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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

Community noise

Noise-induced hearing impairment is by no means restricted to occupational situations - noise levels associated with impairment are experienced at open-air concerts, discotheques, motor sports events etc. (ref. Guidelines p.XIV).

Such non-industrial noise is referred to as community noise, also known as environmental, residential or domestic noise. The main indoor sources are ventilation systems, office machines, home appliances and neighbours. Other typical sources of neighbourhood noise include the catering trade (restaurants, cafeterias etc.), live or recorded music, sports, playgrounds, car parks, barking dogs.

For most people, life-time’s continuous exposure to an environmental average noise level of 70 dB will not cause hearing impairment. An adult person’s ear can tolerate an occasional noise level of up to 140 dB, but for the children such an exposure should never exceed 120 dB. (ref. Guidelines p.XI).

Continued growth in transport systems - highways, airports and railways - generate more noise. Many countries have regulations on community noise from rail, road, construction and industrial plants based on emission standards, but few have any regulations on neighbourhood community noise, probably owing to difficulties with its definition, measurement and control. This and the insufficient knowledge of the effects of noise on people handicap attempts to prevent and control the problem.