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The noisiest and quietest urban areas in England are revealed in the Widex Noise Report, with the noisiest presenting a serious threat to our health. Newcastle-upon Tyne comes top of the traffic noise table with an ear-splitting 80.4 decibels (dB) – equivalent to a loud alarm clock constantly ringing in your ear - whilst tranquil Torquay was bottom with a relatively peaceful 60 dB – the same as listening to a normal conversation. As decibels are a logarithmic index this makes Newcastle 100 times noisier than Torquay.

Traffic noise was measured because it is the one element we are all exposed to in today’s world. Transportation is the major noise polluter in the country and traffic noise is the largest element of it. The levels of traffic noise the report has uncovered are a threat to our health and wellbeing and should be seen as detrimental as air pollution. If loud enough, prolonged exposure to traffic noise could lead to irreversible hearing damage requiring a visit to a professional audiologist.

Though it was to be expected that some of our biggest cities appear in the top three (2nd ranked Birmingham 79.1dB, 3rd ranked London 78.5 dB) there was surprise at how noisy smaller towns such as Darlington and Gillingham are ranked well above larger metropolitan areas such as Manchester and Liverpool. The full list of towns and cities measured for traffic noise pollution is below.

The Widex Noise Report was compiled by measuring traffic noise in 41 towns and cities around England during rush hour periods. Measurement locations were chosen where people come into close proximity to traffic. The report’s author Professor Deepak Prasher, of the Ear Institute, University College London worked with Widex of Denmark, one of the world’s leading hearing aid manufacturers, to devise a methodology that would give a ‘snapshot’ of the levels of noise pollution around the country. The Professor and his team carried out the measurements during October and November 2006.

Comments Prof Prasher: “Noise pollution in our towns and cities is a growing problem and can have a serious long-term impact on our health and well-being. Noise not only annoys but also can raise our stress levels and associated hormone levels. It can disturb sleep and increase the risk of heart disease and if the noise is loud enough it can lead to permanent hearing impairment and tinnitus.”

Widex sees the results of noise pollution every day through the growing numbers of people requiring hearing aids. Nine million people in the country are estimated to have some sort of hearing impairment (Source: RNID) with two million using hearing aids. Numbers of hearing impaired are rising as are the numbers wearing aids.

Through the latest digital technology, new hearing aids (such as the Widex Inteo) have never been better at helping hearing impaired people enjoy normal lives and social and work interaction. But as noise pollution grows it is important that we protect our ears and our general health.

Prof Prasher’s Top Tips for protecting ears are:-

Avoid indecent exposure to noise: What’s indecent? That depends on your point of view, but if you have to shout to be heard by someone near you then the background noise is too loud.

Turn down your iPod: When listening to your iPod or MP3 player be conscious of the volume, don’t keep turning it up to drown out background noise and take regular breaks to give your ears a rest.

Restrict your time in very noisy places: If you must stay in a noisy area, try to take regular time out in a quiet place.

Protect your hearing from repeated noise pollution: Wear earplugs and remember to wear them throughout the time you are exposed to the noise.

Use carpets and curtains to deaden noise in the home: homes can be very noisy with children’s toys reaching 140 dB and household appliances creating noise levels above 90dB.


Noise Level Rankings in Decibels (dB)

Rank---Location---dB

1---Newcastle upon Tyne----80.4
2---Birmingham----79.1
3---London----78.5
=4---Darlington----78.3
=4---Doncaster----78.3
=6---Gillingham----77.8
=6---Leeds----77.8
=8---Leicester----77.5
=8---Liverpool----77.5
10---Stoke----77.4
11---Manchester----77.3
12---Sheffield----76.3
13---Nottingham----76.2
14---Bournemouth----76
15---Norwich----75.9
=16---Bristol----75.8
=16---Blackpool----75.8
18---Croydon----75.5
19---Swindon----75.2
20---Exeter----74.6
21---Coventry----74.5
22---Brighton----74.3
23---Carlisle----74.2
24---Sunderland----73.8
25---Plymouth----73.6
26---Southampton----72.5
=27---Cheltenham----72.4
=27---Lincoln----72.4
29---Bury St.Edmunds----72.3
30---Ipswich----71.9
31---York----71.5
32---Eastbourne----70.8
33---Oxford----70.7
34---Chelmsford----70.3
=35---Reading----69.8
=35---Cambridge----69.8
37---Colchester----68.1
38---Folkestone----66.8
39---Scunthorpe----66.4
40---Paignton----65.7
41---Torquay----60.2

-ends-

Notes to Editors:

Deepak Prasher PhD is Professor of Audiology at University College London. He has been leading three European Commission projects assessing the impact of noise on health. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Noise and Health.

Widex of Denmark is one of the world’s leading hearing aid manufacturers.

For further information, interviews with Prof Prasher and maps, tables and photos, please contact Simon Brookes (simon@ccomspr.co.uk) or Susan Rowlands (susan@ccomspr.co.uk) tel 0207 378 3430.

From 2nd February the Widex Noise Report can be found on www.widex.co.uk

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