An article where the association between noise measurements and the annoyance perceived by children, measured with questionnaires was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The LIFE Gioconda project (Young citizens count in the decisions on environment and health), coordinated by the Institute of Clinical Physiology of the National Research Council, IFC-CNR, monitored air pollution and noise outside and inside the schools participating to the project, and investigated students’ risk perception. The most relevant results were collected and transformed in recommendations for local and regional administrators.
The observations on noise levels and on the perception of annoyance have confirmed the hypothesis of a strong correlation between them. Annoyance represents the most common subjective response to the noise experienced in most of the monitored classrooms.
The attention dedicated to noise is grounded on the growing concern about it, recognized as an environmental pollutant by scientists, the general public and policy makers in Europe. The concern focuses above all on the effects of noise on students’ health, well-being and learning, because several studies have highlighted the consequences of noise on children’s performance at school.
The Gioconda working group on noise (IFC-CNR, ARPAT, IPCF-CNR and Ipool srl) investigated the relationship between noise judgment in students aged 11 to 18 and noise measurements. A questionnaire was administered to 521 students in 28 classrooms in eight schools in four Italian cities, with different environmental characteristics (Taranto, Naples, San Miniato (PI) and Ravenna). Some of the respo
Some noise-related responses were used to produce a score, called discomfort index for each student (AI) and a median score of the class as a whole (MAI).
To analyze the results of noise monitoring, GIOCONDA researchers have developed a global indicator, the Global Noise Score (GNS), which summarizes the acoustic situation of three classrooms with different exposure for each school, considering: the sound level that characterizes the internal and external environment (measured in Leq); facade insulation; wall insulation; reverberation time and an index of speech intelligibility. For the GNS, a scale of scores was prepared, divided by classes, obtained starting from the scores assigned to each individual indicator, based on the limit values established by the Italian laws and on quality values deriving from Italian and European studies. The GNS indicator, developed and tested, has been presented and published. The result of the noise measurement reveals a negative situation in most of the classrooms: in the eight schools of GIOCONDA about 75% of the classes are placed at the lower steps of the scale (“poor” and “very poor” quality).
A significant negative correlation between MAI and measured noise score (GNS) emerged, confirming the initial hypothesis that the better the acoustic quality of the classrooms, the lower the perceived noise and annoyance. In particular, the annoyance is highly correlated with external noise, internal noise and reverberation time. On the other hand, it is worth noting that the parameters related to wall and façade insulation are not associated with perceived annoyance, probably because it is easier for students to associate perceived sound levels with external sources than to the poor insulation of the school buildings. Also the indicator of difficulty in listening (time of speech intelligibility) is not correlated with the perceived annoyance, suggesting that in actual classroom situations, in addition to the physical acoustical characteristics of the classroom, a number of factors (e.g., age, gender, hearing impairment) can play an important role in students’ subjective judgment of the environmental listening quality.
The results of the study confirm not only that noise at school is an extremely serious issue, and is often neglected by the competent administrations, but that annoyance is the main subjective response to noise exposure. The characterization of annoyance is an important step in increasing collective awareness regarding the need to reduce noise pollution. Since children spend long periods of time at school, and they are the most vulnerable subjects to environmental determinants, the results of this study can be informative to undertake noise monitoring actions in schools and to improve the acoustic quality of the classrooms.
Since children spend most of the day at school, and they represent the most vulnerable subjects to environmental determinants in general, the results of the study confirm the need for noise monitoring activities within schools, to verify the condition of school life and improve, if necessary, both the acoustic quality of the classrooms and the well-being of teachers and students.
Minichilli F, Gorini F, Ascari E, Bianchi F, Coi A, Fredianelli L, Licitra G, Manzoli F, Mezzasalma L, Cori L. Annoyance Judgment and Measurements of Environmental Noise: A Focus on Italian Secondary Schools. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Jan 26;15(2). pii: E208. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15020208. PubMed PMID: 29373506.