When we think, talk, relax, listen to music or sleep we need quiet. Even relatively low levels of noise can cause annoyance and frustration. Sudden increases in volume and tone makes sounds annoying — the reason why sirens are so penetrating. A quieter background can make noise more intrusive.
Natural sounds are generally less annoying than ones we think unnecessary or controllable. Intermittent sounds such as a tap dripping on a quiet night can be more disturbing than the sound of falling rain.
The Brisbane Noise Survey (1989) showed that traffic, aircraft and barking dogs annoyed people most. Radio and television, garbage trucks and noise from neighbours also ranked high in the survey.
Noise can interfere with speech. When the background noise level is 50dB(A), normal conversation can be easily carried with someone up to 1m away. Any more than that and problems will arise.
Noise can wake people from sleep and keep them awake. Even if not actually woken, a person’s sleep pattern can be disturbed, resulting in a reduced feeling of well-being the next day.
Decreased work performance
As noise levels increase, our ability to concentrate and work efficiently and accurately reduces. Louder noise bursts can be more disruptive. Noise is more likely to reduce the accuracy of the work than reduce the total quantity of work done. Complex tasks are more likely to be impaired. Noise can also make instructions or warnings unclear, resulting in accidents.
Prolonged exposure to noise levels above 85dB(A) can damage inner ear cells and lead to hearing loss. At first, hearing loss is usually temporary and recovery takes place over a few days. After further exposure, a person may not fully recover their initial level of hearing — irreversible damage will have been done, causing deafness. The extent of deafness depends on the degree of exposure and individual susceptibility. Even brief exposure to very high levels of 130dB(A) or more can cause instant, irreversible hearing damage.
Avoiding Common Noise Sources
If looking for a quieter place to live, avoid areas near major roads, bus routes and intersections. Traffic from shopping centres and sporting facilities can also cause problems. Hilly traffic routes can be noisy due to gear changes and acceleration. Valleys and dips are generally noisier than flat, open land. Before choosing a property, it’s wise to check with your local government to find out where any new roads or freeways are planned.
Dog owners have a responsibility to make sure their dogs don’t cause annoyance. Local government can adopt local laws allowing action to be taken against owners whose barking dogs disturb others.
Before choosing a property, it’s wise to check aircraft operations with the local airport.
Being a thoughtful neighbour means ensuring noise in your household doesn’t annoy other people. Sometimes it’s the timing of noise that creates the problem. Lawnmowers can disrupt sleep or rest if operated early in the morning. The most convenient time to mow is usually late morning or late afternoon. If in doubt, have a word with your neighbour about the most convenient time to mow.
Swimming and spa pool equipment
Regulations prescribe what‘s acceptable noise on neighbouring premises. Ask your local council or Environmental Protection Agency office for advice.
Should be positioned to prevent disturbance to neighbours. Check noise levels before buying and seek advice on location from your installer.
Stereos, television, radios and power tools
Should be used with thought for your neighbours’ comfort.
Don’t have the same range and number of noise sources as cities and towns. However, sources such as quarries, boarding kennels and poultry farms can affect surrounding land for a considerable distance. Before buying or renting, check what’s permitted under the Town/Shire plan and always look for existing sources of noise.
How do I report a Nuisance Noise?
To log a request or for further information about this please contact Environmental Health Services on 4776 4607 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .