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Annoyance and health problems in response to low-frequency noise  

Author:  | Health, Noise

Documents submitted by acoustician Paul Schomer to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin for docket 2535-CE-100, application of Highland Wind Farm to construct a wind electric generation facility consisting of 41 wind turbines with a total capacity of 102.5 MW in the towns of Forest and Cylon in St. Croix County. Note: None of these papers mentions wind turbines, but low-frequency noise at levels such as these to cause health effects in at least some people has been well documented in homes near wind turbines, e.g., recently by Schomer and three other acousticians in Shirley, Wisconsin.

A Study of Annoyance Due to Low Frequency Noise in the Home
R. N. Vasudevan and H. G. Leventhall, Chelsea College, London University, London, U.K.
Journal of Low Frequency Noise and Vibration, vol. 1, no. 3, 1982
Abstract: A survey of complaints of low frequency noise was followed by noise measurements in complainants’ homes. The survey showed that annoyance was greatest in the late evening and early morning, leading to health problems in some cases. Measurements in the home indicated that the low frequencies at about the I.S.O. threshold level were capable of causing annoyance, especially when the noise fluctuated in level. This sometimes occurred due to a beat between two nearby components. Conventional, dB(A) based, methods of assessing annoyance fail when applied to low frequency noise.

Practical Aspects of the Low Frequency Noise Problem
H. Dawson, Rolls-Royce, Bristol, U.K.
Journal of Low Frequency Noise and Vibration, vol. 1, no. 1, 1982
This paper describes some practical aspects of both the historical and current low frequency noise problem, proposes techniques for its specification and control, outlines some silencing methods and suggests an action plan for those interested in the subject.
Definitions: The Low Frequency sound referred to in this paper is arbitrarily confined to frequencies beiow 261 Hz. The term Infrasonic refers to frequencies below the generally accepted lower limit of auditory perception of 20 Hz, although it is known that infrasound, while losing its tonal quality at frequencies below 16 Hz is in fact audible, given sufficient intensity, down to 1 Hz.
Low Frequency Sound: Low frequency sound is omnipresent and although our ears do not readily detect it, the noise spectrum measured in even the quietest location is dominated by energy at the low end of the spectrum (Fig, 1). However, very often, and certainly much more frequently than is currently recognised, the levels of low frequency noise are enough to interfere with people to a degree sufficient to cause significant misery, distress and economic penalty.
… In a given population exposed to a sufficient level of low frequency noise some people can be distressed to an extreme degree while others remain quite unaffected. Once a complaint-inducing level has been reached, there is no correlation between absolute sound pressure level and the number of complaints from a given population – people either complain or they do not. … Once a person has displayed some sensitivity to low frequency noise, further exposure lowers the sensitivity threshold. Any sensitivity is exacerbated by the presence of other stresses. The low frequency sensitivity syndrome includes: feelings or irritation/unease/stress/undue fatigue; headache; nausea; vomiting; heart palpitations; disorientation; swooning/prostration.

Subjective Response Patterns Related to Low Frequency Noise
Maria Tesarz, Anders Kjellberg, Ulf Landstrom, and Kjell Holmberg, Department of Ergonomics, National Institute for Working Life, Solna, Sweden (M.T., A.K.), and Department of Physiology and Technology, National Institute for Working Life, Umea, Sweden (U.L., K.H.)
Journal of Low Frequency Noise and Vibration, vol. 16, no. 2, 1997
Abstract: The relationship[s] between low frequency noise exposure and subjective symptoms, such as fatigue, tension, irritability and annoyance reactions were studied in a group of 439 persons working in offices, laboratories and industries. Measurements were made of each person’s exposure to noise and subjective responses were collected by means of a questionnaire. The dB(C)-dB(A) difference was used as an indicator of the low frequency character of the workplace noise. Indices of annoyance, distraction reactions and symptoms were used as dependent variables in hierarchical multiple regression analyses. Potential confounders were controlled for. Low frequency noise was strongly related to fatigue and tiredness after work, with an increase of these symptoms with increased low frequency dominance in the noise. Annoyance was strongly related to noise level and distraction reactions were neither related to noise level nor with the low frequency character of the noise. Specific response patterns due to low frequency noise are discussed.

This material is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this material resides with the author(s). As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send queries to query/wind-watch.org.

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