Noise Project


The world is getting louder, and that noise impacts hearing, general health, and overall quality of life.

While you might expect noise pollution in urban areas, it also impacts more rural and natural areas. It even affects people’s homes.

And all this noise leads to hearing loss.

Noise (and sound more generally) is measured in decibels. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides detailed information about noise standards and human tolerance of them. A whisper from five feet away runs about 40 decibels, a classroom conversation runs about 70 decibels, and a jet taking off runs about 130 decibels. The office recommends avoiding sounds above 140 decibels, which include fireworks, firearms, and airplane engines close by.

These noises are cumulative throughout a day and require a rest period following. The louder the decibel level, the shorter the exposure time and the longer the recovery time following. These standards vary among individuals, of course, as those with sensory processing, hyperacusis, tinnitus, and other disorders face bigger challenges than those with more standard hearing.

Project Overview

After moving here from more urban areas, what struck me about this smaller town is just how much louder it seemed. This area has its share of manufacturing and soybean processing, and a small airport lies just outside of town. The university brings traffic, but it’s largely confined to one area. Summer brings lawnmowers, fall brings the evil leaf blowers, and winter brings snow and snow blowers.

Otherwise, farm fields surround this town.

But is this area really that loud?

This project seeks to answer that question.

First Phase

The first phase of this project involves identifying areas and recording sounds within them. The areas are divided as

Recordings largely will remain unedited for now. Except for the home recordings, each will include GPS coordinates and decibel ranges. Each also will include a brief description.

Further Plans

Further iterations of this project might include the following:

  • Interactive map
  • Comparison chart
  • Sounds from other locations, such as a metro area