Noise and communication: a three-year update

Noise Health. 2012 Nov-Dec;14(61):281-6. doi: 10.4103/1463-1741.104894.


Noise is omnipresent and impacts us all in many aspects of daily living. Noise can interfere with communication not only in industrial workplaces, but also in other work settings (e.g. open-plan offices, construction, and mining) and within buildings (e.g. residences, arenas, and schools). The interference of noise with communication can have significant social consequences, especially for persons with hearing loss, and may compromise safety (e.g. failure to perceive auditory warning signals), influence worker productivity and learning in children, affect health (e.g. vocal pathology, noise-induced hearing loss), compromise speech privacy, and impact social participation by the elderly. For workers, attempts have been made to: 1) Better define the auditory performance needed to function effectively and to directly measure these abilities when assessing Auditory Fitness for Duty, 2) design hearing protection devices that can improve speech understanding while offering adequate protection against loud noises, and 3) improve speech privacy in open-plan offices. As the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the effects of noise, an understanding of the interplay between auditory, cognitive, and social factors and its effect on speech communication and social participation is also critical. Classroom acoustics and speech intelligibility in children have also gained renewed interest because of the importance of effective speech comprehension in noise on learning. Finally, substantial work has been made in developing models aimed at better predicting speech intelligibility. Despite progress in various fields, the design of alarm signals continues to lag behind advancements in knowledge. This summary of the last three years' research highlights some of the most recent issues for the workplace, for older adults, and for children, as well as the effectiveness of warning sounds and models for predicting speech intelligibility. Suggestions for future work are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Communication*
  • Ear Protective Devices
  • Facility Design and Construction
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Noise, Occupational / adverse effects
  • Noise, Occupational / prevention & control
  • Privacy
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools
  • Speech Intelligibility
  • Speech Perception