Thursday, 1 January 2015

Bad noise isn't just loudness

I think most of us are aware that loud noises can harm our hearing and make it hard to concentrate on our work, even maybe that they can make us cranky.

Did you ever stop to think that there are noises that really upset you that aren't all that loud?

Think about "doof doof" music playing at a party three streets away.  (Apologies if you like that form of music).  It isn't actually the loudness that is disturbing.  It's that it goes on and on and on.  It's that we have no control over it.  We can't sleep while it is there.  Feels like someone is doing this to us and doesn't care a damn how it affects us.  You can't get away from it - it sort of seeps through the walls, under the doors, vibrates through the windows.  It happens every weekend.  It's not a sound that "belongs" in our environment - different to other sounds we are used to. We're convinced that the people who are playing this music aren't likely to be people we'd want as friends.  And it's really low frequency - which is why it is so hard to block out and why it travels so well; high and mid-frequencies get attenuated by distance, structures, etc. - low frequencies are much less attenuated.

But it's not just the low fequencies that get to us - it's all those other factors I put into the story above that stimulate and stress our systems and put it into the category of "offensive noise".

What's really dangerous about this kind of sound is that it is responsible for 75-90% of our reactions to noise (the other 10-25% is reaction to loudness).  And our reactions are things like annoyance, anger, disappointment, dissatisfaction, withdrawal, powerlessness, depression, anxiety, distraction, agitation and exhaustion.  You've probably recognised already that these are feelings and attitudes that we generally try to avoid, either because of the impacts that they have on our physical and psychologicial systems or because of how they affect our relationships with other people.

In total, what these effects of this kind of noise amounts to is impaired quality of life.  You can see an overview report I've prepared on research on these non-noise impacts here.

Guess what. The noise assessment in the application for the motocross track at Adare doesn't mention these things.  Not any of them.  Neither does it mention the impact of sound on our sleep patterns or on our children (including on their long-term study and academic futures).  Are you a shift-worker?  It doen't mention what motocross sounds will do to your sleep between 4pm and 9pm four to six nights per week, or to your ability to drive safely to and from your shift work.

But, even if you aren't under 14 years old or a shift-worker, how do you feel about knowing that the long-term disruption to sleep patterns from a motocross track could lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or depression? There's a range of research data to back up all of these possibilities.

To come back to my original point - the problems with noise are not just about loudness.  What do the environmental protection laws set as standards for noise?  Yep, loudness.

So, if you are somewhere within say four kilometres of the Adare property where it is proposed to put the motocross track (tracks!! it's planned there will eventually be five of them) then don't assume because someone tells you that the noise won't be "loud" where you live that you won't be able to hear it, or that it won't have significant impacts on your quality of life.  Don't forget that even if it isn't loud, it will be six days per week, four to six nights per week until 9.00pm, and up to 52 weeks per year.

If you want a more detailed account of the potential health impacts of motocross noise you can download it here.  Please use it to let the Lockyer Valley Region Councillors know that noise has significant health impacts that aren't necessarily related to loudness, and these need to be taken into account in making a decision about the application.  Tell them too that the potential noise impacts of the proposed motocross facility at Adare are unacceptable.

1 comment:

  1. Please don't let this happen. I once had to put up with noise from illegal bikes when Riawena Rd was being built and they found the hills created to build up the road were a good place to ride. It still makes my skin crawl when I have to think about it and I detest those bikes still. Many of you will know how long ago that road was being built between Granard and Kessels RDS and I still can't forget the horrible sound of them.