A large share of urban dwellers live in areas where road noise is highly irritating.

Having trouble sleeping at night? Feeling a little ticked off? Feel free to blame the world around you. According to new research, where you live and the transportation network surrounding you could be causing levels of road noise that lead to both sleep deprivation and high levels of annoyance.

By tracking traffic noise levels in and around the Atlanta metropolitan area of Fulton County, Georgia, researchers found that upwards of 9.5 percent of the area's population is regularly exposed to ambient traffic noise that's loud enough to be considered really, really annoying. The research [PDF], published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, also found that about 2.3 percent of the area's population lives in areas where noise levels can be highly disturbing to sleep.

These two maps show the noise levels throughout the county from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

The highest noise levels were, unsurprisingly, recorded around major highways, freeways and arterial roads. The worst levels in these areas were above 80 decibels. That's about as loud as listening to your home stereo, which doesn't seem bad. But imagine 10 or 12 hours of road traffic coming through your speakers every day. "Annoying" is a very mild description.

For Atlanta, the roughly 10 percent of people dealing with this irritating sound may seem like a relatively small portion of the population. But according to this research, Atlanta's sound problems are likely similar in other metropolitan areas – and they may even be worse elsewhere. The U.S. Census Bureau's American Housing Survey collected traffic noise information from respondents in 38 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and found that, at only 14 percent, Atlanta had the lowest percentage of households reporting traffic noise issues. The amount of people in other cities facing super annoying road noise could be even higher than 10 percent.

These results add to an altogether unnerving set of research into the negative effects of road noise. As we reported back in June, traffic noise above about 60 decibels has been connected with higher rates of heart attack in people over 50 in Denmark. Though some have criticized this work for overlooking the issues regarding the income levels and health conditions of people who tend to live near busier roads, the work presents additional reasons to be concerned, if not scared, of louder traffic outside your window.

Photo credit: Mike Blake / Reuters

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    These Sneakers Are Your Free Transit Pass

    A new BVG-Adidas collaboration means unlimited travel along Berlin’s public transit network for the rest of 2018. That is if you can find a pair.

  2. Environment

    Britain's Next Megaproject: A Coast-to-Coast Forest

    The plan is for 50 million new trees to repopulate one of the least wooded parts of the country—and offer a natural escape from several cities in the north.

  3. Equity

    How Today's Developers Maintain Jim Crow Housing Segregation

    A private Brooklyn developer and a Louisiana public housing authority share the belief that racial division in housing has its plusses.

  4. A small accessory dwelling unit—known as an ADU—is attached to an older single-family home in a Portland, Oregon, neighborhood.
    Design

    The Granny Flats Are Coming

    A new book argues that the U.S. is about to see more accessory dwelling units and guides homeowners on how to design and build them.

  5. Transportation

    On Paris Metro, Drug Abuse Reaches a Boiling Point

    The transit workers’ union says some stations on Line 12 are too dangerous to stop at. What will the city do?