Risk to Your Health

Over the past number of years the link between noise pollution and ill-health has become more and more prevalent. There are obvious health risks with excessive noise, like damage to hearing, but others are becoming more apparent, including increased stress levels. This can be at home or in the work place.The effect of noise affects both health and behaviour.

According to the European Environment Agency, environmental noise causes at least 10,000 cases of premature death in Europe each year, with almost 20 million adults suffering annoyance and a further 8 million suffering sleep disturbance.The World Health Organisation has identified noise as the second most significant environmental cause of ill health, the first being air pollution. 

The European target limit for outside night noise levels is set at an annual average of 40 decibels by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The aim of the WHO Regional Office for Europe is to assist EU states in developing legislation to limit noise thresholds. These guidelines refer to the adverse effects of exposure to noise above 40 decibels. Based on research findings, noise levels above 55 decibels increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. A 2008 German study (European Heart Journal) of more than 2,000 heart attack patients, found that those exposed to more than 60 decibels noise had an increased risk of heart attack.

The Night Noise Guidelines for Europe are available online in pdf format. The European Environment Agency (EEA) also published a set of guidelines on the health impacts on noise in November 2010, also available online in pdf format. To raise awareness of the impacts of noise, an International Noise Awareness Day is held each year, find the next one here


Am I at risk?

Below is a checklist that may help you determine whether high noise levels are affecting your everyday life.

  • Are you exposed to noticeable noise - a busy street, a vacuum cleaner or a crowded restaurant - for most of your working day?
  • Do you use noisy powered tools or machinery for over half an hour a day?
  • Is there a difference with your hearing at the end of the day and the next morning?
  • Are there hammering or impact tool noises?
  • Do you work or live near construction work, demolition or road repairs?
  • Have you noticed that you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation?

The Health Implications

According to a 2011 study, at least one million healthy life years are lost every year from traffic-related noise in the western part of Europe.


A pattern between long term exposure to noise and hearing loss has been established. Loud sound levels cause damage to the inner ear, which can lead to irreversible hearing loss. The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. Sounds louder than 80 decibels are considered potentially hazardous.

Heart problems

High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular problems, while blood pressure has been shown to rise, if the person hears noise above 70db levels during an eight hour period.


Although one of the less serious effects, noise pollution still adds to annoyance and distraction. If a listener dislikes the noise, they are annoyed and it can lead, for example, to sleep disturbance.