Noise Health Home 

[Download PDF]
Year : 2002  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 15  |  Page : 13--18

The meaning of annoyance in relation to the quality of acoustic environments

Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp 
 Technical University Berlin, Institute of Technical Acoustics, Berlin; University of Oldenburg, Department of Physics /Acoustics, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany

Correspondence Address:
Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp
Technical University Berlin, Institute of Technical Acoustics, Sec TA7, Einsteinufer 25, 10587 Berlin


A supportive environment should take care of health. It is an environment that provides complete physical, mental and social well-being. It is not sufficiently characterized by infirmity or the absence of disease. It should trigger good feelings and safety (WHO, 2000). Interdisciplinary procedures are needed that include acoustics, physics, psychology, and sociology when a survey on perception of acoustic environments is carried out under the aspect of comfort. It is necessary to combine methods with different sensibilities in order to measure the subjective perception of noise in such an environment. The context, the focus of attention, and the knowledge of past experiences must be taken into account. (Ipsen, 2001) These three conditions are required to implement an adequate measurement. Subject-centered methodological procedures should be used to develop a suitable measurement procedure. Such procedures will be presented with the aim to improve social surveys that especially address the meaning of annoyance in an acoustic environment and the contribution of a soundscape.

How to cite this article:
Schulte-Fortkamp B. The meaning of annoyance in relation to the quality of acoustic environments.Noise Health 2002;4:13-18

How to cite this URL:
Schulte-Fortkamp B. The meaning of annoyance in relation to the quality of acoustic environments. Noise Health [serial online] 2002 [cited 2022 Oct 7 ];4:13-18
Available from:

Full Text


When carrying out the World Soundscape Project in the seventies Murray Schafer and his colleagues concentrated on the interaction of people and sound, the way people are consciously perceiving their environment.

Following this attempt the idea was raised to modify soundscapes adjusting to the living areas, to take into account different aspects like the structure of urban areas, people living in those areas, architectural and social parameters designing those areas, and acoustical and visual parameters. Very often the gestalt or the construction of public places was under consideration. The soundscapes as an acoustical scheme was stored by recordings to keep the soundscapes available for the future to understand their underlying structure.

Schafer's prominent research Tuning of the world (1977) was translated into German in 1988. In 1993 in Japan the Soundscape Association of Japan (SAJ) was founded, and Schafer's Tuning of the World was translated into

Japanese. The "Forum fur Klang-landschaften" in Germany was also built in 1993 related to the international network "The World Forum for Acoustical Ecology" at Vancouver B. C. that was based on research activities in the seventies. Schafer's cultural history of hearing is a story about people's habit towards natural and self produced sounds. His questions with respect to acoustical ecology gave a systematic to the discussion on the sounding environment. The approach was avant-garde, the results rich of facets, raising always new ideas. (Lorenz, 1999)

The meaning of soundscapes

Ipsen (2001) defines three components that are relevant concerning soundscapes: the context, the focus of attention, and personal knowledge/experience. Recently, the results of a study in the area of Kingford Smith Airport, Sydney, suggest "that the background factors which influence reaction to noise may be reasonably limited to the soundscape. Nonetheless, further research is required to establish whether other features of the enviroscape and psychscape are relevant to noise reaction (Job, 1999). Lercher et al (1999) found that "noise sources interact with the specific acoustic and environmental makeup (topography, meteorology, land use pattern, and lifestyle). The higher dissatisfaction expressed with their environment, in spite of overall satisfaction with personal life quality, points to difficulties to control the noise adequately." Maffiolo et al (1999) point out, that "garden soundscape evaluations integrate subjective evaluation of the landscape visual contributions: a positive evaluation of the landscape reduces annoyance of the soundscapes whereas a negative evaluation of the landscape increases annoyance."

These results opened the door to the new concept of the moderator soundscape. In a study carried out by Fyhri and Klaboe et al (1999) the problem was highlighted "in defining a subjective sound­or urban scape that is dependent on which parts people relate to and how they relate to them. ( for example: the Sunday walker will clearly have a different experience of a street than a Monday morning late-for-work bus chaser). In Berglund's study (2001) the participants characterize the residential soundscapes under four dimensions, namely, adverse, reposing, affective, and expressionless. Hohmann and Schulte-Fortkamp (2000) focus on the interaction of living space and noise sources. They ask for the moderating effects of an experienced living area concerning noise annoyance. Hohmann has acoustically developed surround-scapes which demonstrate harmonic and disharmonic effects of an urban environment. Genuit (2001) analyses aurally related psychoacoustic to receive a more objective description of the subjectively perceived sound quality. Following Chtouris (2001) sound should be interpreted in urban environments more under the aspect of a high density of activity, than being an element of annoying noise.

Obviously the relationship between visual and acoustical space is important. Probably, the analysis of soundscapes can lead to a quality improvement in relation to different existing usages in an urban environment. Although there is wide consensus among researchers that the environment is experienced through all our senses, the acoustic component of the environment has only been addressed in relation to noise pollution and in a handful of experimental studies on the influence of sounds on landscape preferences, Giuliani (2001).

Researches concerning the moderator effect of the quality of the residential area regarding annoyance give hints that they may work like a noise exposition equivalent. Evidently, annoyance research has to take into account different parameters and can not focus only on one parameter: while Klaboe looks from an architectural point of view with regard to changes which influence the noise development as well as odor and dust. Lercher (1999) asks for the natural environment like parks and gardens which may moderate the annoyance. It is his particular point of view that the local traffic is topped by the highway and railroad traffic (Lercher, 1999).

Even more difficulties arise when noises from different sources have to be judged. Analyses of such a constellation of noise events like road, rail road, and air traffic show something like a spectrum of subjective perception, reaction, and judgment. Although there are various surveys to solve this problem of measurement, there are no models and measurements up to now, which definitively define the procedure (Gjestland,1999; Schulte-Fortkamp, 1998).

When a decision about the meaning of soundscapes is asked for, than procedures are needed to explain the effects of soundscapes concerning their function. Different aspects concerning the moderator effect may lead to the question whether a factor soundscape will help to fill the gaps of three uncertainties: firstly, whether residents react more annoyed on road-, rail-, and air traffic noise as in earlier times; secondly, which correlation exists between annoyance judgments and somatic processes, and thirdly, what happens when people give an overall judgment on the degree of annoyance.

Measurement procedures

To consider the contextual conditions of noise annoyance and its judgments is one important procedure regarding the measuring of annoyance related to noise sources. A measurement is needed, which refers to the objective and to the subjective parameters. The structure of residential areas, the combination of noise sources, and the soundscape, all these three factors are as important for the judgment of annoyance as the subjective parameters. These are relevant from people's point of view, the relationship of both should define the background of the subjective and objective parameters.

The evaluation of noise and vibration in helicopters will be used here to explain how a procedure of soundscape measurement should be established.

Different subject-centered methodological procedures have been taken into account to develop a suitable measurement procedure in order to judge the comfort of noise and vibration in helicopters. The Brite-Euram project IDEA PACI that focuses on perception of sound and vibration was conducted with about 600 subjects from different European countries. It referred to flight situations in jets- and propeller airplanes and helicopters. Its aim was to improve the comfort of aircraft passengers by the modification of those psycho acoustic and vibration parameters that physically correspond to the dimensions that distinguish between acoustic and vibration perceptions in aircraft. (Quehl et al, 1998)

The following example will deal with five conditions of two types of helicopters. 132 subjects were evaluated in real flights and mock-up tests at AGUSTA, Italy, in the IDEA PACI project. Since comfort and its counterpart annoyance are of relevance in this kind of study, it might be helpful to get some details on the procedure.

Judgments of sound and vibration

Various dimensions have to be taken under consideration in order to judge sound and vibration under the aspect of comfort or quality. Since the subjective judgments will be influenced by different moderators, the methods necessarily have to be adapted to the various objectives that are related to certain physical, psycho-, socio acoustical, and psychological questions. The evaluation of the perception of acoustic environments needs an integrating transdisciplinary concept. As an example results of the IDEA PACI project will be presented for such a measurement procedure that evaluates the perception of the two factors sound and vibration in an acoustic environment.

Reviewing the recent psycho-acoustical and the relevant psychological literature, it became obvious that an adequate methodological instrument for the evaluation of acoustic and vibration experiences in aircraft does not currently exist. A step by step pretest procedure that uses the CIS-method in field and laboratory pretests with experts naive test persons led to a context orientated semantic differential concerning jet- and propeller airplanes on the one hand and helicopter on the other: 15 adjective pairs with regard to airplanes and 20 adjective pairs regarding to helicopters.

Both of the semantic differentials have 10 identical adjective pairs including the 5 psycho acoustic descriptors loudness, roughness, sharpness, tonality and fluctuation strength according to Zwicker, another 10 are specific concerning the helicopter, 5 are specific regarding airplanes. Additionally, the questionnaire covered social data like age, gender, profession, flight experiences and an overall judgment of the test situation.

Finally, the main test questionnaires and test instructions were translated into an English version at UnOl assisted by a double native speaker (English and German) into an Italian version. (Quehl et al, 2000)

The final German and Italian main test questionnaires and instructions were used for the assessment of subjective data in the main tests that were carried out in real flight and mock-ups at AGUSTA in Italy. The development of the questionnaires for the main test procedures ensured the equivalence of ground and in-flight subjective response.

Additionally the pre-test findings have been used for the exploration of the facilities for the technical measurement and the specification of the main test requirements and arrangements. Modifications based on the results of the psycho acoustic pre-tests were integrated in the definition of test requirements and procedures, and in the preparation and performance of the main tests. (Quehl et al, 2001)

The helicopter test series have been carried out with 25 subjects (13 female and 12 male) taking part at the real helicopter flights and 107 subjects (45 female and 62 male) at the helicopter simulation tests in the mock-up, 25 of them took part before in the real flight test.

Both tests followed a similar procedure: in a communication room the test persons became familiar with the test procedure. Then they were led to the helicopter flight or to the mock-up. 5 flight situations were presented twice in a randomized order: hover, 60, 100, 120, and 140 knots. Each flight situation was evaluated using the semantic differential for helicopters in the native language of the subjects (Italian). After the flight or mock-up test the test leader brought the test persons back to the communication room where they answered to the final questionnaire.


Using the PCA it was possible to extract from the SD data independent psychological dimensions describing the combined acoustic and vibration perception in aircraft. Varimax rotated principal component analysis was carried out for each flight situation the mean evaluation of in flight and ground tests. Applying the criterion of eigenvalues > 1 three interpretable factors were detected explaining about two thirds of the total variance.

The factor explaining one third of the variance was a comfort factor related to helicopter interior sound and vibration. Comfort seemed to be the counterpart of specific sound and vibration characteristics. Adjectives more or less used in everyday life such as comfortable and bearable were complimentarily described with strong, oppressing, unsteady. Particularly, the items loud and rotating differ in the factor loadings concerning the 5 flight situations. The second dimension was associated with time characteristics of the flight situations like monotonous and regular and further vibration qualities like unsteady and shaking. The third factor was confined to the perception of tonality and other psycho acoustic parameters. It is obvious that the real flight situation plays a significant role. The comparison to the mock-up evaluation may explain these findings.

It was confirmed that the overall impression of the helicopter mock up was different from the real flight. The profiles demonstrate that the mock up is evaluated for the same flight situations as less bearable, less pleasant, less comfortable, but more loud, and more dangerous. [Figure 1] The scale from 1-7 for the semantic differential means that 1 is the highest ranking and 7 the lowest.


The results demonstrate that a specific combination of items in a semantic differential which is developed on the base of a concrete objective enables to explore the perception adequately. With respect to international studies it has to be taken into account that the semantic differential was developed in German. A transfer and translation of the semantic differential requires a sensitive adaptation to different cultural backgrounds and contextual conditions that are given by the native language.

When going into details the meaning of context became more obvious. Sound and vibration appear as particular input, with respect to both, comfort and its counterpart annoyance. Comfort seems to be related to a number of environmental characteristics (e.g. noise and vibration, air pollution, humidity, temperature, air draft, pressure). Health related issues like well being, pleasantness, etc. require an enhanced approach that allows to discover new relevant relations which constitute a supportive environment.[17]


1Berglund, B. (2001) Perceptual characterization of perceived soundscapes in a residential area, Proceedings, CD, ICA 2001, Rome
2Chtouris, S. (2001) A comparative interpretation of soundscape and noise. Proceedings, CD, ICA 2001, Rome
3Fyhri, A., Klaboe, R.(1999) Exploring the impact of visual aesthetics on the soundscape. Proceedings, Internoise 99, Fort Lauderdale, Fl, USA, 1261-1264
4Gjestland, T. (1999), Assessment of annoyance in a multi­source noise environment. Proceedings, Internoise 99, Fort Lauderdale, Fl, USA, 1297-1298
5Giuliani, M.V., Capirci, O. (2001) Deaf people and sounds, Proceedings, CD, ICA 2001, Rome
6Ipsen, D.(2001) The urban nightingale or some theoretical considerations about sound and noise (draft)
7Job, RSF., Hatfield, J., Carter, NL., Peploe. P., Taylor, R., Morell, S. (1999) Reaction to noise. The roles of soundscape, enviroscape, and psychscape. Proceedings, Internoise 99, Fort Lauderdale, Fl, USA, 1231-1236
8Lercher, P., Brauchle. G., Widmann, U. (1999), The interaction of Landscape and Soundscape in the alpine area of the Tyrol: An annoyance perspective. Proceedings, Internoise 99, Fort Lauderdale, Fl, USA, 1347-1350
9Lorenz, A. (1999) Klanglandschaft wortlich, Forum fur Klanglandschaften, 1999
10Maffiolo, V., Castellengo, M., Dubois, D. (1999), Qualitative judgments of urban soundscapes. Proceedings Internoise 99, Fort Lauderdale, Fl, USA, 1251-1254
11Quehl, J., Schick, A., Mellert, V., Schulte-Fortkamp, B., Remmers, H, (1998) Passenger comfort: a review of involved factors and research techniques available for its assessment, in Proceedings of the second CEAS-ASC Workshop: Aircraft Interior Noise Control (Daimler-Benz Aerospace Dornier, Friedrichshafen, 1998).
12Quehl, J., Schick, A., Mellert, V., Schulte-Fortkamp, B., Remmers, H.(2000) Evaluation of combined aircraft interior sound and vibration effects on passengers` well­being and comfort sensation: the elaboration of a concept specific methodologoical instrument", in Results of the 8th Oldenburg symposium on psychological acoustics edited by Meis, M. & Reckhardt, C. (bis, Oldenburg, 2000) 201­208.
13Quehl, J., Schick, A., Mellert, V., & Remmers, H., Interaction of sound and vibration on comfort evaluation of aircraft flight situations, in Fortschritte der Akustik,CD,DAGA 2001, Hamburg DEGA e.V. 2001.
14Schafer, R. M. (1977) The tuning of the world, Alfred a. Knopf, Inc.; New York
15Schafer, R. M. Klang und Krach: eine Kulturgeschichte des Horens, Frankfurt a.M. 1988
16Schulte-Fortkamp, B., Combined qualitative and quantitative measurements to evaluate noises from combined sources. J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 103, No.5, Pt 2, 2876, 1998
17Schulte-Fortkamp, B., Hohmann, B. (2000) Von Soundscapes zu Annoyance, in Fortschritte der Akustik, DAGA 2000, Oldenburg DEGA e.V. S.106