Noise pollution and health is the focus of Noise Action Week 2018. Noise pollution is second only to air pollution in the extent of damage it causes to public health. Noise also has a huge impact on our quality of life – from keeping us awake to disrupting daily activity. In her report on pollution and health published in March 2018, the Chief Medical Officer for England  says:

“Pollution is like junk food – it doesn’t hit you on the day but it can accumulate and do you harm. Noise (and light) both impact on sleep affecting performance and mental health. Noise in particular is the single largest cause of complaints to local authorities.”

Noise Action Week 2018 will focus on:

  • Noise in neighbourhoods
  • Noise from houses in multiple occupation
  • Noise from pubs, clubs and music venues

The National Noise Attitude Survey published in  2014 showed  we are now more bothered by noise than we were ten years ago. Noise Action Week gives local councils, housing providers, mediation services and anyone else on the front line of noise complaints and opportunity to raise awareness of the effects of excessive noise, the informal practical measures and regulations that can reduce its impact.

Below are suggestions of unhealthy noise problems to focus on:

Noise in neighbourhoods

Councils, private landlords and housing managers –  Most noise complaints come form rented housing. Short term tenants are less likely to know their neighbours or become part of communities. Poor sound insulation and layout of properties also makes noise problems worse – for example where a living room or kitchen is above or next to a neighbours’ bedroom.

What you can do: Landlords and housing managers can use Noise Action Week to talk to tenants about being considerate neighbours, and consider practical ways they can contribute to preventing and reducing noise problems.

Loud music and parties – Music, house parties and noise from TVs and audio equipment are some of the most commonly complained about domestic noises. Why not use Noise Action Week to promote services or launch new, services aimed at encouraging neighbours to turn it down.

DogsDog barking is another of the most complained about neighbour noises.

What you can do: Local authorities and housing organisations have run very successful initiatives offering advice and support on reducing this problem through appropriate dog care and training. A happy pet is a a quiet pet  – and animal stories are always popular with the press.

Noise outdoors – Noise Action Week takes place in spring – when the weather gets warmer and windows are more likely to be open. While your garden might be an ‘outdoor room’, remember it doesn’t have walls.

What you can do: Remind people that anything in the garden is overheard by neighbours – whether it be a loud phone conversation, DIY or gardening with power tools, a party or BBQ.

Alarms – Alarms going off accidentally can be extremely annoying – often waking up an entire neighbourhood.

What you can do: Many local authorities have used Noise Action Week to promote local key holder registration schemes and encourage residents to sign up.

Noise from shared homes

In shared houses, noise can often be a problem. House sharers may be busy getting to know each other – and not remember they have neighbours too. House sharers socialising can often cause problems when next door to people with different lifestyles. T^hese problems are often (but not always) caused by younger house sharers, and frequently students.

Students – University cities and towns  have neighbourhoods where shared student accommodation is mixed with permanent residents. Problems arise where lifestyles conflict, and young people living in what they percieve to be a ‘student neighbourhood’ forget families, people who sleep at night and get up for work and older people are their neighbours.

What you can do: Noise Action Week is a great opportunity to focus local debate around managing noise from student properties, improving community relations and launching or highlighting initiatives. For example, in Brighton and Hove tighter regulation on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) have been progressively introduced to manage noise and other impacts and improve the quality of rented housing. In some  cities universities and students’ unions run campaigns – like the Solent University Keep Quiet Campaign – encouraging students to keep the noise down. In Welwyn Hatfield extra noise patrols and an extended reporting hotline are in place for Operation Balsam during May to manage the impacts of end of term parties. See our tips for reducing noise from parties.

Noise from pubs, clubs and music venues

We now have more flixible licensing than in the past, and increasingly dense development in urban centres with housing and entertainment venues side by side. Where people live next to entertainment premise, it is no surprise that they can be disturbed by noise.  This has become a controversial issue – and led to the integregration of the ‘agent of change’ principle into planning, that states if a new development comes to an existing noise source (eg flats are propsed next to a music venue ) the developer is responsible for ensuring noise isnt a problem.

What you can do: Noise Action Week is an opportunity for noise regulators, venues and and neighbours to worked together to build  balanced communities where pubs, clubs and music venues can survive and thrive.

Environmental Noise

Noise from outdoor sources is referred to as environmental noise – this includes transport noise from roads, rail and aircraft and industry. As the source of this noise is mobile or a large facility it can be a challenge to manage. HJowever there are measures that can be taken to reduce its impact.

Transport Noise

In many homes noise from transport can be heard. Surveys have found over 80% of people are exposed to noise pollution at home and nearly half of people are bothered by intrusive traffic noise in their homes.

What you can do: We can all play a part in reducing this noise by  quieter transport where practical, avoiding aggressive, noisy driving; rat tunning through residential areas and choosing quieter vehicles and quieter tyres.

Quiet Areas – we are at risk of losing open spaces where we can relax in the company of natural sounds of wildlife and weather. Time spent outdoors is linked to better mental and physical health.

What can you do: Noise Action Week provides an opportunity to get people in your area thinking about local open spaces and where they go to get peace and quiet, and how that peace and  quiet can be protected.

Noise and the environment

Increasing noise levels don’t just disturb people. There are many pieces of research that show wildlife is disrupted by noise too – for example birds near roads having to change or increase the volume of their song to find a mate.

Hearing Health

Headphones and Hearing – Research shows many people are listening to headphones at high levels and risk hearing damage as a result – whether it be when out and about or to drown out noise in open plan offices.

What you can do: Noise Action Week is an opportunity to raise awareness of the risks of listening too loud.