By Tim Hall
Life in Newcastle is 100 times noisier than in Torquay, according to a noise map of England that warns of a growing health problem. Academics found street noise in Newcastle measured more than 80 decibels (dB)—a level the World Health Organisation lists as "unsuitable for human habitation." Not far behind Newcastle are London and Birmingham, where noise levels are high enough to cause severe stress, a weakened immune system, heart problems and tinnitus.
Farther down the list are "black spots" such as Coventry, Brighton and Plymouth, where noise levels, approaching 75 dB, are sufficient to cause sleepless nights and lowered productivity at work.
Of 41 urban areas, only Torquay comes close to tranquil, with an average decibel count of 60.2—calculated as 100 times quieter than Newcastle because decibels are a logarithmic index. But even 60 dB is above the limit health experts recommended for residential areas.
Deepak Prasher, the professor of audiology at University College London, drew up the map using traffic noise. He said: "Some of the places where I took readings, right next to houses, people have to shout to each other to make themselves heard. That environment is loud enough to cause chronic hearing problems."
Prof. Prasher said he was even more surprised to see relatively small towns like Doncaster and Gillingham—at numbers four to six in the list—featuring above Manchester and Liverpool.
"Even Brighton was only five decibels quieter than London," said Prof. Prasher. "It's not the image I had of Brighton—wandering along a quiet sea-front. It illustrates that traffic noise in England has spread throughout the country and through the night. There is no escape from it now."
Prof. Prasher said he found "pockets of tranquillity," such as a quadrangle in Oxford city centre. However, taking average readings over 20 minutes in each area, he was often shocked at the level of noise.
—The Weekly Telegraph