Author(s): Schreckenberg Dirk
In its DALY report (2011) the World Health Organization listed several health outcomes of noise and estimated an annual loss of 1 million healthy years due to environmental noise. Currently, WHO updates its noise guidelines based on reviews on the impact of environmental noise on annoyance, sleep, cardio-vascular and metabolic systems, cognition, mental health, hearing, and adverse birth outcomes and on the health effects of noise interventions. Resent large-scaled studies such as the Swiss SiRENE study and the German NORAH study have strengthened the evidence of the impact of environmental noise on mental and physical health. Researchers often refer to stress models when explaining the environmental noise's health-related impact. However, there are still some knowledge gaps with regard to the health impact of noise. These gaps refer to the exposure and the health impact side of exposure-response relationships. Among others, concern has been raised, whether continuous sound level or rating levels (e.g. Lden) are adequate descriptors of exposure in exposure-response relationships for all outcomes or whether other indicators, e.g. the maximum sound level, are more appropriate. The exact pathways from noise exposure to long-term health effects and the interrelationship between different health outcomes are still unclear. This refers to gaps in theory. The general stress model is not specific enough to allow for verifiable or even exactly testable predictions. Effect differences of noise from different sources at comparable continuous sound levels are to be explained. For some noise sources, e.g. railway noise and industrial noise, we need more studies. Moreover, the health impacts of noise from multiple noise sources are still unclear. For annoyance some models for explaining the impact of combined noise sources exist, such models are lacking for sleep disturbances and other health effects. For noise annoyance, ICBEN has recommended an internationally standardised method for the assessment. Such standardisation is needed also for the assessment of other health outcomes. In this contribution these and other gaps regarding noise health impacts are described.
Name: Mr Dirk Schreckenberg