Environmental noise refers to unwanted sounds caused by human activity, such as road noise, aircraft, rail traffic, construction noise, building systems (e.g., ventilation or cooling), or neighbourhood noise (e.g., loud music, sports fields). Exposure to very loud sounds, even for short periods, can lead to hearing-related health effects such as hearing loss and tinnitus. People may also experience short-term non-auditory effects of noise, including discomfort, annoyance, loss of productivity, and loss of sleep. Chronic exposure to noise has been associated with cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, cognitive, and mental health impacts.
Environmental noise can vary in intensity or loudness (measured in decibels), and is influenced by the duration (continuous, intermittent, or impulsive), and frequency (pitch) of sounds. Each of these factors may influence an individual’s response to noise.
The resources presented below are intended to assist public health practitioners to:
- Understand current guidance for protecting human health from exposure to environmental noise.
- Provide advice on assessing noise exposure and evaluating the potential health effects
- Understand current research relating to noise exposure, including how health effects occur and differ by noise source, and the social inequities of noise exposure
Note that this topic page does not provide information about occupational noise exposure, which has different noise exposure limits than environmental noise. Additionally, while some of the resources below provide general guidance around noise reduction strategies, providing specific information about noise abatement measures for the large variety of environmental noise sources is out of the scope of this page.
Noise exposure guidelines
- British Columbia noise control best practices guideline (BC Oil & Gas Commission, 2021)
These guidelines describe recommended noise control practices for facilities carrying out oil and gas activities in BC.
- Best spatial planning practices to prevent the effects of environmental noise on health and quality of life (Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec, 2018)
This guidance document aims to assist regional stakeholders involved in land-use planning incorporate best practices for noise mitigation.
- Environmental noise guidelines for the European region (World Health Organization, 2018)
These guidelines provide recommendations to protect human health from exposure to environmental noise from various sources: transportation (road traffic, railway and aircraft) noise, wind turbine noise, and leisure noise.
- Good practice guide on quiet areas (European Environment Agency, 2014)
This guidance document provides education and direction to help policymakers meet the requirements of the European Environmental Noise Directive (END) relating to the protection of quiet areas from increasing environmental noise, particularly from transport and industrial sources.
- Environmental noise guideline - stationary and transportation sources - approval and planning (NPC-300) (Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, 2013)
These guidelines provide sound level limits for stationary sources (e.g., industrial and commercial establishments) and transportation-related noise, as well as guidance for incorporating these limits into noise control bylaws and land-use planning decisions.
Noise exposure assessment
- Environmental Noise in Europe – 2020 (European Environment Agency, 2020)
This report provides an updated health impact assessment of environmental noise exposure in Europe.
- How loud is too loud? Health impacts of environmental noise in Toronto (Toronto Public Health, 2017)
This technical report includes the results of a noise monitoring study completed in Toronto in 2016 and a discussion of these results in the context of human health.
- Guidance for evaluating human health impacts in environmental assessment: Noise (Health Canada, 2017)
This guidance document provides information on Health Canada’s process for predicting health risks related to environmental noise from resource or infrastructure projects.
Effects of environmental noise exposure on health
- Evidence for environmental noise effects on health for the United Kingdom policy context: A systematic review of the effects of environmental noise on mental health, wellbeing, quality of life, cancer, dementia, birth, reproductive outcomes, and cognition (Clark, Crumpler, & Notley, 2020)
This systematic review assesses the state of evidence for numerous health outcomes related to exposure to environmental noise.
- Environmental and recreational noise-induced hearing loss (Garg & Goel, 2019)
This article discusses the effects of environmental and recreational sources of noise on hearing loss.
- Biological mechanisms related to cardiovascular and metabolic effects by environmental noise (Eriksson, Pershagenm, & Nilsson, 2018)
This paper reviews the evidence underpinning current understanding of the biological pathways that lead to the cardiovascular and metabolic health effects that have been associated with environmental noise.
Social inequities of noise exposure
- Social inequalities in environmental noise exposure: a review of evidence in the WHO European region (Dreger et al., 2019)
This systematic review assesses the evidence relating to social inequalities of environmental noise exposure in European countries.
- Race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, residential segregation, and spatial variation in noise exposure in the contiguous United States (Casey et al., 2017)
This study uses a geospatial model to estimate environmental noise exposure in the US and investigate the associations with racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities.
Community Sources of Noise
- Review of evidence relating to environmental noise exposure and annoyance, sleep disturbance, cardio-vascular and metabolic health outcomes in the context of ICGB(N) (van Kamp et al., 2019)
This review evaluates evidence relating to various sources of noise exposure, including road, rail, aircraft, wind turbines, building services, neighbours and neighbourhood, and industrial sources.
- A survey on exposure-response relationships for road, rail, and aircraft noise annoyance: Differences between continuous and intermittent noise (Brink et al., 2019)
This study investigates the association of transport-related noise with noise annoyance considering the intensity of noise variation over time.
- Managing noise from aircraft (Transport Canada, 2018)
This webpage describes how aircraft noise is mitigated by Transport Canada and provides information about forecasting noise exposure in nearby areas and raising concerns related to aircraft noise.
- Wind turbine noise (Health Canada, 2014)
This study by Health Canada aims to explore the relationship between exposure to noise produced by wind turbines and health effects.
- Guidelines for the resolution of complaints over railway noise and vibration (Canadian Transport Agency, 2008)
These guidelines assist individuals, municipal governments, and railway companies to resolve issues related to railway noise and vibration.
Road Traffic Noise
- Exposure to road traffic noise and incidence of acute myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure: a population-based cohort Study in Toronto, Canada (Bai et al., 2020)
This cohort study with nearly 1 million participants evaluates cardiovascular health outcomes associated with long-term exposure to road traffic noise in Toronto.
- Association between road traffic noise and incidence of diabetes mellitus and hypertension in Toronto, Canada: a population‐based cohort study (Shin et al., 2020)
This cohort study with nearly 1 million participants evaluates cardio-metabolic health outcomes associated with long-term exposure to road traffic noise in Toronto.
- Traffic noise and mental health: A systematic review and meta-analysis (Hegewald et al., 2020)
This systematic review and meta-analysis investigates the evidence base for road, railway, or aircraft noise-related risks of depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and dementia among adults.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.