What does “noisiest country” mean?

Which is the noisiest country in the world? This is an apparently simple question that can have several different interpretations, depending on the criteria we use to understand the term “noisiest country”. For instance, a separate single sound event (like a gunshot) can yield to a very high instantaneous sound level (peak level). If we only used this criteria, the noisiest country would be the one having the world’s record instantaneous sound source (for instance, rocket’s launching). But, what about the duration of the sound event? Shouldn’t we consider it? Of course, it seems quite clear that if we have the same sound event repeated for several times, that scenario would be noisier than the previous, in which only one event was present. We will come to the same conclusion if the sound event lasts for longer. Therefore, both, level and duration are important. Consequently, the equivalent sound level is the more widely accepted environmental noise descriptor, as it evaluates sound intensity and duration, at the same time, in a single descriptor. If we used this criteria, perhaps we could think of a country having a big and very busy airport.

It becomes even more complex when we add any people-based criteria. Probably, we should consider the number of people or percentage of people exposed over a certain noise level threshold. But, how should we get it? We could consider only noise in populated areas, or in cities, or we can include quite areas too. How do we consider intensity, duration, population, areas… at the same time?

Of course, we shouldn’t keep noise effects apart, and therefore, it is necessary to account for the sleep disturbance produced during the night period, the cognition and communication effects produced during day and evening, annoyance and other health effects. Should we only concentrate in those time intervals in which noise causes annoyance and forget about other effects?


A people’s based approach

In this approach, UPM proposes to forget about objective data, and only consider people’s subjective response, collected in a web survey. This web survey was published using Google Forms, and it was opened to participation for almost a year, although most of its visibility was lost after the first month. A link to the survey was published through social media, using the web, LinkedIn, Google+, and twitter, and with the help of the UPM’s communication services.

The survey had a version in two languages: Spanish and an English, and, almost half of the 337 responses were collected in each language. There were participants from 56 different countries, and Spain was the one contributing with most of them, as this is an action promoted by a Spanish university.

After a statistical processing, we can conclued that people consider India as the noisiest contry in the World.


What do Spaniards think?

It can be observed that Spain is the noisiest country for Spaniards, and Japan is the second one. One curious point is that these two countries are those arising in Spanish media, from time to time, as the noisiest countries in the world (in the opposite order, Japan 1st, Spain 2nd).


Full results will be publish at ICSV23 to be held in july in Athens