Measuring Noise Pollution in Cities Across the U.S.
- Los Angeles, Houston, and New York are the noisiest cities.
- Newark, NJ, has the highest noise pollution index at 78.
- 1 in 8 Americans filed a noise complaint in the past year; the top noise complaints were loud neighbors, barking dogs, and car alarms.
- More than 1 in 4 Americans don’t believe their local government is doing enough to address noise pollution.
Sounds of the City
Bright lights, bustling crowds, and jam-packed cars—the sights and sounds of the big city. Noise pollution is a significant part of city life that can impact residents’ well-being. Are all cities teeming with noise, or can you find some quieter metropolitan streets for retirement living? To answer this question, we analyzed noise level data from cities across the U.S. and surveyed 1,005 city residents. This article will explore our findings and determine America’s loudest and quietest cities.
The Loudest Cities in America
We synthesized data across seven noise-related variables to determine the loudest and quietest cities in America. Use our interactive, searchable table to explore the results.
Our analysis of city noise pollution included several variables in order to determine an accurate ranking for each location. We factored in noise pollution index data from Numbeo and used fatal car accident statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) as an indication of traffic volume and noise.
Our study also included Google search volume data per 100,000 residents for the search terms “noise complaint,” “noise disturbance,” “noise ordinances,” and “noise pollution” to indicate resident dissatisfaction with high levels of noise pollution. And the number of outdoor pickleball courts was used as an indication of recreational noise.
After analyzing noise pollution data, our study revealed the three loudest cities in America were:
Some residents accept noise pollution as an inevitable aspect of city life, but such resignation can be hazardous to your health. Noise pollution has been tied to chronic health problems and an increased risk of heart attack. The government recognizes noise pollution a public health hazard, but much of the Noise Control Act of 1972 remains unfulfilled, so noise pollution continues to plague many U.S. cities.
However, some cities have managed to lower the volume. According to our study, Winston-Salem, NC; Santa Clarita, CA; and Lincoln, NE, were the quietest.
Contributing Factors of Noise Pollution
Ranked No. 6 overall, Newark, NJ, had the highest noise pollution index at 78. Newark has been working hard to decrease noise pollution with various ordinances against loud cars and entertainment venues, but its struggles with noise pollution persist. Conversely, proving their quietness yet again, Winston-Salem and Santa Clarita had the lowest noise pollution index numbers at 4 and 19, respectively.
One contributing factor to noise pollution is traffic congestion. High traffic levels come with honking horns, loud mufflers, and big trucks. Train and airplane traffic can also add to the transportation tumult. Houston residents suffered from the most traffic noise, followed by Los Angeles. Meanwhile, streets in Enterprise, NV, and Santa Clarita were far quieter.
Despite all the noise, some city residents seem to withstand the commotion more than others. Residents of Orlando, FL, had the highest search volume for “noise complaint,” “noise disturbance,” and “noise ordinance.” They also ranked third for searches regarding “noise pollution.” Perhaps the presence of some of the planet’s most popular vacation destinations is to blame, as Orlando is home to the multiple Disney and Universal theme parks.
Surprisingly, New York City had some of the lowest search volume for “noise disturbance” and “noise ordinance,” suggesting that New Yorkers have either accepted their lot in The City That Never Sleeps or invested in exceptionally effective soundproofing.
Along with traffic and theme parks, there are some more innocent-seeming contributors to noise pollution. The surge in pickleball popularity has led to the installation of hundreds of outdoor courts, but the persistent paddle pops have some city residents complaining about pickleball noise levels. While it may seem silly to complain about, some residents have to endure the sounds of multiple pickleball courts (90 in Arlington, VA) being played on consistently throughout the day and night.
Living With Noise Pollution
While we can close our eyes against light pollution, we can’t shut off our ears against noise pollution. We asked 1,005 U.S. city residents about the impact of noise pollution on their daily lives and what they’re doing to fight against it.
Noise pollution is a major problem in the U.S., as 77% of respondents were disturbed at home by noise pollution at least a few times per month. Almost one-quarter experienced disturbances daily. With the frequency of noise pollution problems, 55% of people considered noise pollution a public health hazard.
Over one-quarter of respondents said the government isn’t doing enough to reduce noise pollution, but it’s not for lack of awareness: 1 in 8 respondents filed a noise complaint in the past year. The most common complaints were loud neighbors, barking dogs, and car alarms.
As a result of excessive noise pollution, 36% reported disrupted sleep, 21% experienced decreased productivity, and 17% felt increased anxiety. To reduce noise at home, respondents used noise-canceling headphones (23%) and white noise machines (21%), and 4% even had their homes professionally soundproofed.
Taking Action Against Noise Pollution
From traffic sounds and car alarms to barking dogs and pickleball games, city residents have to deal with noise pollution every day. Those who prefer softer surroundings may choose to install soundproofing measures in their home or even relocate to one of the quieter cities on our list. On a larger scale, it’s up to local governments to create and enforce city ordinances to decrease noise pollution and reduce its health effects. Only then will we enjoy a quieter, healthier future.
We created a unique meta-ranking for the 99 most populous U.S. cities using the following variables:
- Noise pollution index – weight = 50
- For variables with N/A, the averages of the column were used as their value, as data was not available
- FARS 2021 accidents – weight = 25
- Search volume – weight = 15
- 3.75 x 4 search volume queries
- Number of outdoor pickleball courts – weight = 10
We used Google search volume data from the past two years for the search terms “noise complaint,” “noise disturbance,” “noise ordinances,” and “noise pollution” to indicate resident dissatisfaction with high levels of noise pollution. We also surveyed 1,005 respondents to see how noise pollution impacts their lives.
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