NEW YORK – Researchers and citizens are starting to see high noise levels as a public health issue, especially for children. Noise exposure can result in permanent hearing loss, cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance and tinnitus, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization. Consistent evidence suggests noise exposure also puts children at risk of cognitive impairment. High decibel levels affect central processing and language related tasks, such as reading comprehension, memory and attention. In 2013, a behavioral study investigated the effect of road traffic on 872 children in Germany. The study found children were more likely to be hyperactive if they lived near busy roads.
City Limits measured the noise levels near 22 elementary schools across several days during school hours. All schools studied are located in “noisy” neighborhoods, as identified by the New Yorker in 2015. Noise at 85 decibels or higher can cause permanent hearing loss after 8 hours of exposure. Every three dB increase after 85 dB cuts acceptable exposure time in half.
All 22 schools did average noise levels below 85 decibels. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.