Aircraft noise is not merely irritating. It is damaging to health, wellbeing, learning and cognitive function. In Australia, communities are subjected to levels of aircraft noise well beyond WHO recommendations and have no legal protection against it. There are no limits to the loudness or number of noise incidents around Melbourne Airport at any time of the day or night — no caps, no curfew — and no compensation is available to residents who are affected by aircraft noise.
• Aircraft noise is more annoying than traffic, railway or industrial noise, according to a recent study (1)
• 60% of people living near airports are annoyed by aircraft noise and more than half (52.8%) are at least moderately annoyed (3), according to the same study.
• 39% of homes with at least one resident seriously affected by noise — based on the average Australian household size — is considered ‘acceptable’ under the National Airport Safeguarding Framework, drawing on a survey conducted in 1980, but has anyone asked the residents whether they think it’s acceptable?
• Almost 100% of homes with at least one moderately affected resident would also be acceptable under these regulations.
• These regulations allow buildings (including houses and workplaces) within a noise contour, even if 52% of residents are either moderately or seriously annoyed.
• Aircraft noise, more importantly, has serious health and educational effects.
• It disrupts sleep, affects learning and cognitive function
• It causes
> cognitive impairment of comprehension, problem solving and memory
> higher impairment in children with language or retention disorders or learning in a second language
> high levels of stress
• It impares
> reading ability and learning outcomes
> auditory discrimination and speech perception
• It leads to poor attention levels
• It increases
> absence from work
> the duration of hospital stays
> the risk of anxiety and depression
> and may increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease (1,2,3,4), and
• It affects us more as we age
What is not clear is whether you must be consciously annoyed by the noise to suffer these known and suspected adverse effects.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that environmental noise outside the home should not exceed 40dB at night and 45dB during the day (2). In the Netherlands, aircraft noise cannot exceed 63.46dB. This is four times louder than the WHO recommends, but is still only half to a quarter as loud as many homes in Melbourne will experience. Each increase of 10dB is perceived as a doubling of loudness, so 60dB is twice as loud as 50dB. For context, countryside noise is roughly 25dB; a ticking clock is roughly 30dB; a quiet suburban street is roughly 40dB; snoring ranges between 42-66dB; conversation is roughly 60dB; a lawnmower is roughly 70dB.
• Only noise above 60dB, more than twice as loud as the WHO-recommended night time maximum of 40dB, are included in Melbourne Airport’s aircraft noise maps and forecasts
• No regulations exist relating directly to levels of aircraft noise
• No upper limit to the loudness or number of flights exist over homes and schools during the day or at night.
• All of the usual suburban noises as well as aircraft noise is experienced by those who live near airports.
• Noise complaints are stonewalled. FOI documents reveal noise complaints recipient, Airservices Australia, stonewalls community members with legitimate complaints about aircraft noise.
• A new study of community responses to aircraft noise in Australia is overdue. In Australia there has only been one study of community responses to aircraft noise, in 1980 (5). By comparison, in the UK there have been four studies, in 1961, 1967, 1980 and 2007. During that time, community tolerance of aircraft noise has decreased. What is clear is that these noise levels are not acceptable to people living near major roads, train lines, or industrial areas. There are however noise regulations for all these but not for aircraft noise.
• Independent studies of actual aircraft noise in residential areas around Australian airports are also needed, as our understanding of community tolerance of aircraft noise is likely outdated.
• A review of the methodology used to forecast aircraft noise is needed, as existing noise forecasting methodology may be inaccurate.
• Delay submission of the Third Runway Major Development Plan to the federal transport minister, until the findings of these studies and reviews have been presented for community scrutiny.
1. T. Lindvall & E. P. Radford. Measurement of annoyance due to exposure to environmental factors (1973). Academic Press Inc.
2. World Health Organisation(WHO). Burden of disease from environmental noise (2011)
3. Manfred E. Beutel ,Claus Jünger, Eva M. Klein, Philipp Wild, Karl Lackner, Maria Blettner, Harald Binder, Matthias Michal, Jörg Wiltink, Elmar Brähler, Thomas Münzel. Noise Annoyance Is Associated with Depression and Anxiety in the General Population – The Contribution of Aircraft Noise
4. Mathias Basner, MD, PhD, MSc, Charlotte Clark, Anna Hansell, James I. Hileman, Sabine Janssen, Kevin Shepherd, and Victor Sparrow. Aviation Noise Impacts: State of the Science; Noise and Health, 2017 Mar-Apr; 19(87): 41–50.
5. Airservices Australia
What are an airport’s impacts (Aviation Environment Federation)
Aviation Noise Impact Management (European Union’s Horizon, Springer)