Low frequency noise enhances cortisol among noise sensitive subjects during work performance

Life Sci. 2002 Jan 4;70(7):745-58. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(01)01450-3.


Salivary free cortisol concentration, rated stress and annoyance were determined in 32 subjects before, during and after carrying out a battery of performance tasks for 2 hours during exposure to ventilation noise, with dominant low frequencies (low frequency noise) or a flat frequency spectrum (reference noise). Both noises had a level of 40 dBA. All subjects were studied on two occasions and were exposed to both noises in strict rotation. Subjects were categorised as high- or low-sensitive to noise in general and low frequency noise in particular on the basis of questionnaires. Cortisol concentrations during the task were not significantly modulated by the noises or related to noise sensitivity alone. The normal circadian decline in cortisol concentration was however significantly attenuated in subjects high-sensitive to noise in general, when they were exposed to the low frequency noise. This noise was rated as more annoying and more disruptive to working capacity than the reference noise. The study showed physiological evidence of increased stress related to noise sensitivity and noise exposure during work. This is the first study to demonstrate an effect of moderate levels of noise on neuroendocrine activity. The impact of long-term exposure to moderate noise levels, and particularly low frequency noise, in the workplace deserves further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Noise, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Workplace


  • Hydrocortisone