Factors Involved In the Human Reaction to Noise





  • Feelings about the Necessity or Possibility of Prevention of the Noise:  If people feel that their needs and concerns are being ignored, they are more likely to feel hostile towards the noise.
  • Judgment of the Importance and Value of the Activity which is Producing the Noise:  If the noise is produced by an activity which people feel is vital, they are not as bothered by it as they would be if the noise-producing activity was considered superfluous.
  • Activity at the Time an Individual Hears the Noise:  A person's sleep, rest and relaxation have been found to be more easily disrupted by noise than by communication and entertainment activities.
  • Attitudes about Environment:  The existence of undesirable features in a person's environment will influence the way in which the person reacts to a particular intrusion.
  • General Sensitivity to Noise:  People vary in their ability to hear sound, their physiological predisposition to noise and their emotional experience of annoyance to a given noise.
  • Belief about the Effect of Noise on Health:  The extent to which people believe that the noise exposure will damage their health, affects their response to the noise.
  • Feeling of Fear Associated with the Noise:  The extent to which people fear physical harm from the sources of the noise, affects their attitude towards the noise.




  • Type of Neighborhood:  The type of neighborhood sometimes associated with one's expectations regarding noise there.  Instances of annoyance, disturbance and complaints associated with a particular noise exposure will be greater in areas which are typically noted for their quiet and less active nature.
  • Time of Day:  Noise intrusions are typically considered more annoying in the early evening and at night than during the day.
  • Season:  Noise is considered more disturbing during the summer than in winter, especially in climates where, during the summer, windows are likely to be open and recreational activities occur outside more frequently.
  • Predictability of the Noise:  Research has revealed that individuals exposed to unpredictable noise have a lower noise tolerance than those exposed to predictable noise.
  • Control over the Noise Source:  Someone who has no control over the noise source will be more annoyed than one who is able to exercise some control.
  • Length of Time an Individual is Exposed to a Noise:  There is little evidence supporting the argument that annoyance resulting from noise will decrease with continued exposures, and, under some circumstances, annoyance increase with longer exposures.


     Source:  Aviation Noise Effects, USDOT-FAA, March 1985.