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Public health and noise exposure

Paper accepted for Inter-noise 2007, 28-31 August, Istanbul, Turkey

Abstract: Noise exposure is known to cause hearing loss and a variety of disturbances, such as annoyance, hypertension and loss of sleep. It is generally accepted that these situations are caused by the acoustical events processed by the auditory system. However, there are acoustical events that are not necessarily processed by the auditory system, but that nevertheless cause harm. Infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN, <500Hz) are acoustical phenomena that can impact the human body causing irreversible organic damage to the organism, but that do not cause classical hearing impairment. Acoustical environments are normally composed of all types of acoustical events: those that are processed by the auditory system, and those that are not. It is generally assumed that acoustical phenomena not captured by the human auditory system are not harmful. This is reflected by current noise assessment procedures that merely require the quantification of the acoustical phenomena that are audible to human hearing (hence the dBA unit). Thus, studies investigating the effects of noise exposure on public health that do not take into account the entire spectrum of acoustical energy are misleading and may, in fact, be scientifically unsound. Two cases of in-home ILFN are described [one of them near 4 wind turbines].

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