Noise Exposure Response: Annoyance

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The goal of PARTNER Project 24 is to develop a deeper understanding of how noise affects annoyance in communities in proximity to airports. The ultimate aim is to construct models that can be coupled with sound prediction models to predict annoyance that would result from future airport developments or changes in air traffic patterns. Part of the research is focused on assessing how different attributes (loudness, spectral balance, roughness, tonality, and fluctuation strength) of aircraft noise can impact annoyance. Currently, only average level is considered in many environmental noise metrics, though it is known that other attributes can negatively impact annoyance; for example, the presence of discernable pitches (tones). Another aspect of the research is focused on understanding the impact of low frequency noise on annoyance. High levels of low frequency noise can cause vibration and rattle and sometimes people can feel as well as hear the sounds. This might be a particular problem for transient sounds from next-generation supersonic aircraft. Included in Project 24 activities is a design study for the development of a portable indoor sonic boom/noise simulator. This device would allow researchers to “boom” existing residences with arbitrary waveforms and survey people to determine annoyance caused by the “booms." It could also be used to characterize the physical responses of different types of construction and improve sound transmission models for prediction of noise exposure indoors. This device could also be used for subsonic studies of noise transmission and human response. In another part of Project 24, researchers are investigating whether knowledge of the noise source (e.g., air, road, rail) influences annoyance, and, if so, how to quantify that source dependence in the annoyance model. Metrics will be developed to better account for cumulative effect of noise events over time. Such models could help project the annoyance impact of an airline switching to a quieter fleet but increasing the number of daily operations. Another part of the research has been focused on gathering old survey data to determine if it is feasible to use it in validation of proposed annoyance models that take into account sound attributes other than average level. While noise is identified as the top environmental concern in most surveys of communities near airports, current annoyance models are relatively simple and do not fully take into account the complexity of human response to sound. Project 24 research will result in more accurate tools to predict how a community will react to changes in airport operations. The results will help planners and policymakers assess more effective approaches to address problems and reduce negative impact.

Anticipated outcome

Improved tools for assessing, modeling, and predicting annoyance in communities that are or may be exposed to transportation noise.

Participating universities

Pennsylvania State University
Purdue University

Lead investigators

Patricia Davies, Director, Ray W. Herrick Laboratories and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University,
Victor W. Sparrow, Professor of Acoustics, Graduate Program in Acoustics. Pennsylvania State University,

Project manager

Mehmet Marsan,


  • Modeling Aircraft Noise Induced Sleep Disturbance. S. McGuire and P. Davies. A PARTNER Project 24 report. December 2013. Report No. PARTNER-COE-2013-004 Download (pdf 10MB)
  • Development of a Model of Startle Resulting from Exposure to Sonic Booms. A. Marshall and P. Davies. A PARTNER Project 8 and Project 24 report. December 2013. Report No. PARTNER-COE-2013-002. Download (pdf 23.3MB)
  • The Number-of-Events as a Predictor Variable in Aircraft Noise Annoyance Models. K. Foertsch and P. Davies. A PARTNER Project 24 report. December 2013. Report no. PARTNER-COE-2013-002 Download (pdf 1.6MB)
  • Aircraft Noise Characteristics and Metrics. Shashikant Ramdas More. A PARTNER Project 24 Report. July 2011. Report No. PARTNER-COE-2011-004. Download (pdf 9.5MB)
  • Sonic Boom and Subsonic Aircraft Noise Outdoor Simulation Design Study. Victor W. Sparrow, Steven L. Garrett. A PARTNER Project 24 report. May 2010. Report No. PARTNER-COE-2010-002 Download (pdf 1.3MB)