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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Feb 7;15(2). pii: E285. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15020285.

WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region: A Systematic Review on Environmental Noise and Cognition.

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Acoustics, Ove Arup & Partners, 13 Fitzroy Street, London W1T 4BQ, UK.
Institute of Hygiene and Medical Ecology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia.


This systematic review assesses the quality of the evidence across individual studies on the effect of environmental noise (road traffic, aircraft, and train and railway noise) on cognition. Quantitative non-experimental studies of the association between environmental noise exposure on child and adult cognitive performance published up to June 2015 were reviewed: no limit was placed on the start date for the search. A total of 34 papers were identified, all of which were of child populations. 82% of the papers were of cross-sectional design, with fewer studies of longitudinal or intervention design. A range of cognitive outcomes were examined. The quality of the evidence across the studies for each individual noise source and cognitive outcome was assessed using an adaptation of GRADE methodology. This review found, given the predominance of cross-sectional studies, that the quality of the evidence across studies ranged from being of moderate quality for an effect for some outcomes, e.g., aircraft noise effects on reading comprehension and on long-term memory, to no effect for other outcomes such as attention and executive function and for some noise sources such as road traffic noise and railway noise. The GRADE evaluation of low quality evidence across studies for some cognitive domains and for some noise sources does not necessarily mean that there are no effects: rather, that more robust and a greater number of studies are required.


aircraft noise; attention; children; cognition; memory; railway noise; reading comprehension; road traffic noise

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