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Perceptions and effects of noise

There are many different effects and sources of noise. People react to noise differently at different times and under different circumstances. What bothers one person might not bother another. People’s attitudes to noise are therefore very important, but are less well understood than the technical science of sound generation and measurement.

Even for the same person, noise can seem different depending on factors such as background noise, the weather (e.g. the wind can blow sound waves away, humidity and rain can also make a difference) and what the person is doing at the time.

Therefore, a plane flying in the same direction, at the same height, over the same place at the same time of day can sound very different from one day to another.

The effects of noise can include general distraction, speech interference and sleep disturbance. Sometimes these effects can lead to annoyance and possibly more overt reactions, like complaints.

Research into the potential health effects of noise is still unclear. Nevertheless, the possibility that severe annoyance might induce stress cannot be ignored.

The Air Transport White Paper acknowledged the potential health effects of aviation and noted the Government’s intention to continue with research on the effects of noise on human health. Heathrow continues to monitor government research.

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