Living close to an airport can be a nightmare. The almost constant noise of airplanes buzzing over your rooftop can be really annoying. After living a year nearby Schiphol (the second busiest airport in Europe), I came up with a list of things that will help to shut down the noise. Noise pollution is not the usual pollution type we write about on this website, but it is good to cover the whole spectrum.
In this article, I will teach you the best ways to deal with airport noise pollution. Some of them require small investments, but some of them don’t. You will also learn how much of a negative impact noise pollution can have on your health. In addition to that, the article ends with a list of the most noise-polluted cities and airports in the world.
Table of Contents
- What are the best ways to minimize sound pollution from airplanes?
- How dangerous can such noise pollution be?
- Should you consider moving?
- What causes aircraft noise in urban areas?
- What are the noisiest cities in the world?
What are the best ways to minimize sound pollution from airplanes?
After about a year of testing and failing, I found out that these action points would be the best:
1) Get yourself a good pair of sound-blocking earplugs.
You will not be able to sleep without them.
There are so many times that you ALMOST fell asleep, just to hear the huge 737 leave the airport towards an exotic destination. That really hurts. It did not take me more than a week before I understood that earplugs was the best solution when getting to sleep.
They do not have to be anything fancy. Most earplugs will work.
The only thing I was paranoid about was whether or not I could hear the fire alarm in case of fire while being asleep. Due to my paranoia, I went to the shop and bought the noisiest fire alarm on the market. Luckily, it never went off. 🙂
2) If possible, try to look into ways that you can isolate your windows and walls in a better way.
This is not something that is usually done in a day or two, but more of a long-term project. However, there are some products out there that can block out 90 to 95 % of all the sound coming outside the window.
A science report that was published through Cornell University showed that sound blocking window products can decrease high-frequency sound a lot. On the other side, they would have problems blocking out low frequent noise. What does this mean?
– Isolating your window properly will help you to reduce noise coming from machines, cars, motorbikes, drunk people yelling in the street and most importantly….airplanes.
– Isolating your window will not help you block out the sound coming from sea waves with fresh air.
If you are really interested in finding out more about this topic, you can find the report here: https://arxiv.org/abs/1307.0301
3) Keep windows and doors shut.
It might be obvious, but many people actually don’t figure out how much this can do. Always keeping your windows and doors shut will make a huge difference. If you in addition to that invest in some sound blocking windows and doors, you are in good hands.
Please also note that some companies claim to sell noise-reducing walls, furniture, and walls. I have yet to try them, and therefore will not comment on whether or not that works.
4) Invest in some great sound-blocking headphones.
They do not have to be connected to your phone or computer all the time. I don’t know if you ever tried sound blocking headphones? They actually work like magic! I bought some Bose Headphones a couple of years ago, and they do literally block out all sound.
Simply put them on your head, turn them on and I will almost guarantee that you are free from aircraft noise the next hour or so. Perfect if you just want to be home and relax.
I took some pictures of the headphones I bought:
Speaking of airplanes and these headphones: they are also perfect when you are a flight passenger.
You probably do not understand how much noise an aircraft makes before you have tried to use them while reading or relaxing on an airplane. Top notch.
Buy these headphones?
I could not find this exact model when I tried to search on Amazon, but when you type in “Bose noise cancelling headphones” on Amazon (you can just click here to come to that search), you will find a lot. Not only have they become more and more popular recently. The price has also decreased – and you will be able to get those down to 60 USD or less.
2020 upgrade: New Bose Noise Cancelling headphones (recommended)
During a trip to Shanghai, I decided to buy some new noise cancelling headphones for my trip. These are simply amazing. They connect to your phone through Bluetooth, do not need a wire and they are super comfortable to use.
As they can block out the sound when you sit INSIDE the aircraft, I am also 100 % sure that you will be able to block out any sound with them if you live close to the airport. 🙂
If you want to check out the latest price on these, you can click this link to get to Amazon.
How dangerous can such noise pollution be?
Most of us would think of aircraft noise pollution as something that is just annoying. Something that can stop a good conversation for a couple of seconds or make you struggle to sleep. But there is actually more to it. US National Institutes of Health published a report after researching carefully all types of health risks by being exposed to the sound of airlines flying over your head. You can access the full report through this link, but as you probably don’t want to spend an hour reading that report, I can already give you the highlights:
– Children that are exposed to aircraft noise at home or at school are more likely to struggle with bad memory and poor reading skills. The scientists actually compared two schools with the same “type” of students. One of them was located close to an airport, the other one was not. It turned out that children on the first school had, quote the report “poorer performance on standardized achievement tests”.
– Other education-related problems that can be connected to aircraft noise are communication difficulties, reduced morale, and pupil and teacher frustration.
– There are two ways that such noise will affect your sleep. Firstly, it will struggle to make you sleep in the first place. Secondly, it will make your sleep depth much weaker. Both of these incidents will cause harm to your health, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
– Two separate studies have actually revealed a correlation between heart diseases and aircraft noise. A total of 9 million elderly people were included in the reports, both people that lived in the US and close to Heathrow Airport in London.
– Hypertension is also a problem that is very often connected with this type of noise pollution. And as you might already know, that can further lead to stress, diabetes and chronic alcohol consumption.
– A study was done on 2300 residents (which by the way is a very low sample size), concluded that aircraft noise had a negative impact on their psychological health.
As you can see, there are loads of different health factors included in the report. Once you understood how dangerous this actually is, you are probably more likely to do something about it.
Should you consider moving?
Buying a house or an apartment is a big investment. If you just moved into a place where you hear the annoying airplane sound quite frequently, you might already understand that it can be quite painful. But you have to decide. Are you staying or are you moving?
If you have the chance and finances to move: great!
But if you stay: you should really try to make the most of it. These tips will be given from me, who struggled with such noise for a full year:
– Follow the four steps that I explained previously in the article. Make sure that you and all your family members can get a break from the noise whenever you feel it’s necessary.
– If possible, try to get your kids into a school as far away from the airport as possible.
– The same goes for your working place. Having a home office in a house where you hear aircraft sounds is not exactly ideal.
– Try to constantly have a “cost/benefit analysis” in your mind. How much does the noise pollution affect me & my family? Is it any cheaper, better places to move?
Renting might be the best option if you plan to live nearby an airport. The investment and commitment are much smaller. In addition to that, it is easy to move if you feel that this is needed.
What causes aircraft noise in urban areas?
There are mainly two things causing this:
1) Air hitting the front of the airplane.
2) The engine.
If you want a longer explanation on aircraft noise, I would recommend this Youtube video created by Brisbane airport:
What are the noisiest cities in the world?
We know that sound pollution can lead to a number of chronic diseases. Depression, heart attacks and diabetes – to mention some. However, it does not seem that city noise is something widely talked about. For instance, you very seldom hear leading politicians talk about noise pollution as an important case.
First of all: let me show you the noisiest cities in the world. And after that, I will quickly tell you why this is a huge problem.
1. Guangzhou, China.
2. Delhi, India.
3. Cairo, Egypt.
4. Mumbai, India.
5. Istanbul, Turkey.
6. Beijing, China.
7. Barcelona, Spain.
8. Mexico City, Mexico.
9. Paris, France.
10. Saint Petersburg, Russia.
11. Taipei, Taiwan.
12. Rome, Italy.
13. Madrid, Spain.
14. Hong Kong, China.
15. Los Angeles, United States.
16. Seongnam-Si, South Korea.
18. Manchester, England.
20. Johannesburg, South Africa.
Why is it a problem to live in these cities?
Because it will destroy your hearing ability for “normal” residents. If you don’t take clear action in order to prevent hearing loss, you will struggle. Healthy Hearing is an association that studies a lot of noise pollution in cities and countries. They publish various studies on their website quite frequently. This one study, that also presented the list mentioned above, showed that the average person living in Delhi had hearing abilities to a person 19 years older than himself/herself.
In other words: if you are 20 years old and have lived in Delhi your whole life, your hearing ability equals being about 40 years old!
Now you might start to understand why this can be a big problem?
As you can see, you don’t have to live close to an airport within the city to be exposed to this huge problem. In fact, there are so many vehicles and other elements creating a problem in a multi-million city. Scientists also saw a 64 % correlation between hearing loss and noise pollution. In other words: you have more than doubled your chances of decreasing your hearing abilities by living in an area with heavy noise pollution. That is something you really should think of before finding a new place to live.
What are the noisiest airports in the world?
Airplanes are more or less the same all over the world. 95 % of all aircrafts are made in the USA, and they all follow more or less the same standards. In other words: the noisiest airports are also the busiest airports.
If you live close to any of these, I would seriously consider moving:
|Number of passengers per year
|Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
|Beijing Capital International Airport
|Los Angeles International Airport
|Tokyo Haneda Airport
|Dubai International Airport
|United Arab Emirates
You are not the only one struggling with airport noise pollution. And because of that, there are several things you can do to minimize the problem. Start with buying some good personal sound blocking items (headset and earplugs). If the problem continues and you do not intend to move, improving your walls and windows should be the next step.
Please note that being exposed to noise pollution over a long period of time can harm your health. If you start to feel some of the symptoms mentioned in this article, call a doctor. At some point, it is time to stop listening to advice online and rather speak to a dedicated doctor at the hospital.