Cities are noisy places and the great metropolises of the world have never been peaceful places to be, after all, that’s part of their excitement and appeal. However, today’s built-up environments subject their residents to more noise than ever before. A recent survey conducted by Gfk Eurisko in 47 cities across 11 countries has shown that while cities everywhere are noisy and getting noisier, the quality of that noise varies significantly around the world.
Italy and the United States top the list with the highest average noise exposure in the world. Italians are most bothered by the din of the ‘Autostrada’, with 39% exposed to a high or medium-high level of traffic noise, including car horns and heavy vehicles. Americans nominate emergency services sirens as a loud feature of daily life, with 27% of respondents exposed at a similar level, up to 115 decibels, which can certainly interrupt daily activities.
In fact, the United States ranks as one of the world’s noisiest cities. The ‘Exposure to Noise Pollution Index’ (ENPI), defining the degree to which a person is exposed to unpleasant sounds, averages 40% across the country, peaking in New York – suggesting the city that never sleeps is a city that rarely quietens down either. USA residents also nominate ‘conversations among people’ and ‘neighbours’ as a leading contributor to urban noise, perhaps indicating that the cliché of the ‘loud American’ has a kernel of truth.
On the other hand, Germany and the Netherlands rate as the quietest countries when it comes to urban noise. The ENPI, defining the degree to which a person is exposed to unpleasant sounds, is lowest in peaceful cities such as The Hague (where barely 9% of residents have a high or medium high ENPI) and Hamburg (a little higher at 13%). Perhaps it has something to do with the middle European reputation for formality and politeness.
One thing city-dwellers everywhere have noticed is that life is getting noisier all the time. Globally, one in three people agree that exposure to urban noise has generally increased in recent years:
Which means one thing is loud and clear: if you live in a city, finding a way to deal with noise is crucial.