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"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

If you have ever fought over the volume on the television with a loved one, you have realised ideal noise levels differ from person to person.

Noise is otherwise known as ‘unwanted’ sound and is expressed in decibels (dB). Its widely agreed sound over 60 dB is the level which can disturb everyday activities such as watching TV and general concentration.

There is no doubt different people have different tolerance thresholds of sound. This could be due to hearing capabilities or exposure to noisy environments. For example, it is well known as people age, they often damage their hearing. This may be due to the type of work they do or recreational reasons such as listening to music too loudly. The first sign of hearing damage is the loss of ability to hear high frequency sounds.

This means that young people can sometimes hear sounds that older people can’t hear anymore. It is also another reason why children and young people should be protected from sounds that can cause damage to their hearing.

Hearing damage can also be the reason why one household may be very sensitive or alert to noise problems, while another may be unaware entirely, or barely affected. The free ‘out-of-five’ rating from NoiseNet is based on the different types of everyday noise which impact a property. This includes traffic, aircraft and train noise.

If a house for example, is given a rating which is 2.3, it sits in the lower half on the ‘noise rating’ scale.

What this means for the individual though, will differ depending on their personal tolerance of noise. It doesn’t however, change the fact there are certain types of noise which are impacting the property, and potentially the health of the occupant.

The best guide to work out whether you have a rating that may be uncomfortable is to first look at the address you are currently residing in, and then compare this to the ratings on any prospective houses you are planning to buy or rent. You can also compare to the homes of friends and judge whether it’s a tolerable noise to live with.

Why does sensitivity to noise matter?

Many studies have been conducted to investigate the impact of noise. While some effects can be inconclusive, noise does impact very ordinary activities. This ranges from conversations being interrupted to waking up at night and losing quality sleep. It is also been proven that people who live in environments of high noise have less ability to concentrate and over a long period can develop high blood pressure, heart disease and reduced immunity (Journal of the American College of Cardiology).

This study supports the idea that while two people may argue over the volume of the TV, or whether an aeroplane is too loud over a house, there is a standard level of noise that when breached, can pose a hazard to health. Someone can be easily irritated by sounds over 60 dB while their partner is barely phased. Regardless, sound is a factor that shouldn’t be ignored when you’re looking for your next place to live.

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