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Noise Health. 2001;4(13):33-49.

Low frequency noise "pollution" interferes with performance.

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Department of Environmental Medicine, Göteburg University, Box 414, Goteburg 405 30,Sweden.


To study the possible interference of low frequency noise on performance and annoyance, subjects categorised as having a high- or low sensitivity to noise in general and low frequency noise in particular worked with different performance tasks in a noise environment with predominantly low frequency content or flat frequency content (reference noise), both at a level of 40 dBA. The effects were evaluated in terms of changes in performance and subjective reactions. The results showed that there was a larger improvement of response time over time, during work with a verbal grammatical reasoning task in the reference noise, as compared to the low frequency noise condition. The results further indicated that low frequency noise interfered with a proof-reading task by lowering the number of marks made per line read. The subjects reported a higher degree of annoyance and impaired working capacity when working under conditions of low frequency noise. The effects were more pronounced for subjects rated as high-sensitive to low frequency noise, while partly different results were obtained for subjects rated as high-sensitive to noise in general. The results suggest that the quality of work performance and perceived annoyance may be influenced by a continuous exposure to low frequency noise at commonly occurring noise levels. Subjects categorised as high-sensitive to low frequency noise may be at highest risk.

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