Community noise exposure and stress in children

J Acoust Soc Am. 2001 Mar;109(3):1023-7. doi: 10.1121/1.1340642.


Although accumulating evidence over the past two decades points towards noise as an ambient stressor for children, all of the data emanate from studies in high-intensity, noise impact zones around airports or major roads. Extremely little is known about the nonauditory consequences of typical, day-to-day noise exposure among young children. The present study examined multimethodological indices of stress among children living under 50 dB or above 60 dB (A-weighted, day-night average sound levels) in small towns and villages in Austria. The major noise sources were local road and rail traffic. The two samples were comparable in parental education, housing characteristics, family size, marital status, and body mass index, and index of body fat. All of the children were prescreened for normal hearing acuity. Children in the noisier areas had elevated resting systolic blood pressure and 8-h, overnight urinary cortisol. The children from noisier neighborhoods also evidenced elevated heart rate reactivity to a discrete stressor (reading test) in the laboratory and rated themselves higher in perceived stress symptoms on a standardized index. Furthermore girls, but not boys, evidenced diminished motivation in a standardized behavioral protocol. All data except for the overnight urinary neuroendocrine indices were collected in the laboratory. The results are discussed in the context of prior airport noise and nonauditory health studies. More behavioral and health research is needed on children with typical, day-to-day noise exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Child
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / urine
  • Male
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*


  • Hydrocortisone