Service addresses noise issues in national parks and has the authority to both set noise limits and do research. However, noise-related activities by federal agencies are not well coordinated. (More details can be found in Chapter 8.) Reducing environmental noise will require that the development and support of noise control technologies be shared among government agencies and industry.

State and local governments can promulgate noise regulations as long as they do not conflict with federal government regulations. EPA still has some noise emission regulations “on the books” and has broad powers with respect to interstate commerce. Despite this, many states and municipalities have no noise regulations at all. Others have regulations, but they are poorly written or outdated. According to Hanson (2002), states and local municipalities would welcome better information and guidance, as well as financial and technical support, in enacting reasonable and effective environmental noise regulations.


Although acoustics—the science of sound—has a long history (Rossing, 2007), noise control engineering is a relatively new field. Noise problems emerged after World War II, with the building of the interstate highway system, the advent of jet airplanes, and the postwar building boom. MIT was a pioneer in noise control education (in the departments of aeronautics, architecture, electrical engineering, and physics), but even today not a single university in the United States has a department (or academic unit), nor is there a widely agreed-on curriculum, for noise control engineering.

Because noise control engineering is inherently a multidisciplinary field, noise control engineers must be knowledgeable in several subjects, including acoustics, aerodynamics, mechanical vibration, measurement, electronics, physiology, psychology, statistics, physics, and architecture. Today the demand for such individuals far exceeds the supply. Meeting this demand will require an emphasis on noise control engineering in the undergraduate curriculum as well as well-funded graduate programs.

The Public

Although people are quick to inform public officials when they are inconvenienced or oppressed by noise, they are poorly informed about how, or even if, noise can be mitigated in practical, cost-effective ways. It would be beneficial for people to have a better understanding of, for example, how noise is measured, so they could participate in informed debate on problems that affect them and recognize when sound pressure levels are likely to cause permanent hearing damage. Two studies in the 1990s included information related to public awareness of noise problems (ASHA, 1991; OECD, 1991); the Internet can also provide a great deal of information. Many organizations that provide public information are identified in this report, and the committee suggests how government might play a larger role in providing information to the public.


All of these subjects are discussed in more detail in the following chapters of this report. In Chapter 11, findings are summarized, and a number of recommendations are given that the study committee believes will lead to the reduction of noise in the United States.

The decibel and other terms used in acoustics to describe noise are briefly described in Appendix A. A more complete description can be found in handbooks on acoustics and noise control, such as Rossing (2007), Vér and Beranek (2006), and Crocker (2007).

Sources of the many technical articles and Internet resources cited in this report include professional society journals and conference proceedings. Several are from a 2007 special issue of The Bridge (NAE, 2007). Others are from Noise Control Engineering Journal and the proceedings of national conferences (NOISE-CON) and international congresses (INTER-NOISE). Referenced papers from these sources are available on the Internet ( and through the Scitation platform hosted by the American Institute of Physics ( and maintained by the Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA ( There are also references to papers published in Noise/News International (NNI), and these are available on the NNI website, Reports from the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering are available on its website,


ASHA (American Speech Language-Hearing Association). 1991. Combatting Noise in the 90s: A National Strategy for the United States. Rockville, MD: American Speech Language-Hearing Association. Available online at

Bronzaft, A., and Van Ryzin, G. 2006. Neighborhood Noise and Its Consequences: A Survey in Collaboration with the Council on the Environment of New York City. Special Report #9. New York: Council on the Environment. Available online at

Bronzaft, A., and G. Van Ryzin. 2007. Neighborhood Noise and Its Consequences: Implications for Tracking Effectiveness of the NYC Revised Noise Code. Special Report #14. New York: Council on the Environment. Available online at

Crocker, M.J., ed. 2007. Handbook of Noise and Vibration Control. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 1974. Information on Levels of Environmental Noise Requisite to Protect Public Health and Welfare with an Adequate Margin of Safety. Document 550/9-74-004. Available online at

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