Noise sensitivity as a factor influencing human reaction to noise

Noise Health. 1999;1(3):57-68.

Abstract

Reaction (annoyance, dissatisfaction) to noise is itself an important health effect, as well as possibly contributing to other putative health effects of noise. Thus, factors such as noise sensitivity, which influence reaction, are of considerable importance. However, noise sensitivity is rarely clearly defined. This paper offers a formal definition of noise sensitivity, and reviews evidence relating to it. Noise sensitivity has been measured in various ways, but may be measured most directly by assessing reaction to many noise situations (other than those involving the noise source(s) which are the focus of the particular study). When noise sensitivity is measured in this way, factor analysis consistently reveals that noise sensitivity is not a unitary concept. Rather, two distinct factors appear: one related to loud noises (road traffic, lawn mower), and the other related to quieter noise situations which are nonetheless distracting (rustling papers at the movies, people talking while watching television). More research is needed to address the relationships between these factors, reaction and other health effects.