ENNAH Young Researcher Exchange Programme

The EU Network on Noise & Health (ENNAH) is funding an exchange programme for doctoral and post-doctoral researchers who are working within Europe. Exchanges are taking place between academic disciplines and countries, with the aim of establishing close links and research partnerships among a new generation of noise researchers. The exchanges have been awarded as part of a competitive process. Details of the candidates funded under this scheme and a summary of their research are given below.

For more details about the exchange programme, please contact Charlotte Clark

Research Undertaken

Annelies Bockstael

Investigating exposure-effect relationships for traffic noise: analyzing existing datasets in search of the most important noise and health quantities

Home Institute: Acoustics research group, Department of Information Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Ghent University, Belgium.
Host Institute: Dr. Peter Lercher: Medical University Innsbruck, Austria.

The main objective of this research project is to perform a preliminary study to gain more insight into the health outcome and noise exposure variables that are needed for further assessment of the exposure-effect relationship of traffic noise. For noise exposure, the prior challenge is to find those noise parameters that correlate best with the health outcome. We hypothesize that statistical sound levels are a valid start, giving information about background noise, events and their level difference. With respect to the health effects, a wide range of health related outcome variables are already available from previous studies. The task is to select those parameters that give the best insight in the adverse effects of environmental noise exposure. As a starting hypothesis, the study will focus on annoyance (including cumulative annoyance due to exposure to noise, air pollution and vibration), mental health, sleep and blood pressure. For blood pressure, confounding factors will be taken into account. Further, special attention will be devoted to those outcome variables that might present a more gradual change with varying noise exposure data. To perform the study, datasets based on face-to-face interviews and phone surveys with inhabitants of the Alpine region will be included, covering health-related information. For these respondents, traffic noise exposure is estimated from simulations developed for the region under study. This model generates one-second emission data which can be converted to instantaneous noise levels, allowing several exposure parameters to be derived, including statistical noise levels.

Sarah Floud

The influence of exposure to air pollution on the association between transport noise and health outcomes – further analysis of HYENA

Home Institute: Imperial College London, UK
Host Institutes: Prof Klea Katsouyanni, University of Athens, Greece; Mr Danny Houthuijs, RIVM, Netherlands; Prof Goran Pershagen, Karolinska Institute, Sweden

The HYENA (HYpertension and Exposure to Noise near Airports) project has produced a wealth of data on individuals living near airports in 6 European countries. So far the project has produced papers on the long-term effects of noise from aircraft and road traffic on hypertension, the acute effects of noise on blood pressure, the association between noise and annoyance and the effect of aircraft noise on saliva cortisol. The aim of this project is to examine whether air pollution modifies or confounds the effect of noise on cardiovascular disease, hypertension and medication use in the HYENA study population. The results from the few studies which have looked at both noise and air pollution together differ as to the relative effects of the two exposures. The analysis will make use of modelled concentrations of NO2 at the place of residence which have been obtained for participants in three of the HYENA countries (UK, Netherlands and Sweden). Statistical analyses will investigate the effect of combined exposures to air pollution and noise from aircraft and road traffic on the following health outcomes: hypertension, self-reported ischaemic heart disease, self-reported cardiovascular disease and medication use. Outputs will consist of a review of previous epidemiological studies which have examined the effects of both noise and air pollution and a paper on the joint effects of noise and air pollution in the HYENA population.

Dr Mara Nolli

Long-Term Exposure to Road Traffic Noise and Health effects

Home Institution: Regional Agency for Environmental Protection, Tuscany Region, Italy. Host Institution: University of Stockholm, (working with Dr. Mats E. Nilsson)

The project will focus on long-term exposure to road traffic noise and health effects, in particular, noise annoyance and effects on cardiovascular disease. Noise data from Pisa, linking noise maps to health data (annoyance survey and cardiovascular events) will be analyzed. The experience of the University of Stockholm in annoyance surveys and its strong cooperation with the epidemiologists at the Karolinska Institutet will inform the Pisa case study. Noise mapping outputs and epidemiological data will be linked in order to model relationships between noise and health outcomes. The active participation in ongoing Swedish projects will result in the deepening of factual knowledge and know-how on methods and procedures, which will benefit future similar research-projects in Italy. The exchange experience will offer the chance of learning, in detail, the procedures of performing a quality socio-acoustical study on annoyance and some crucial aspects of epidemiological studies, like case-control methodology, power-analysis, and statistical treatment of data. This will be important for the analyses of the data on myocardial infarction cases in Pisa: a shared methodology between the Institutions (ARPAT and Stockholm University) will be developed. The exchange program will hopefully constitute the starting point of a fruitful collaboration for the future.

Katarina Paunovic, MD, PhD

Novel methods of blood pressure measurements in children in relation to noise exposure

Home institution: Institute of Hygiene and Medical Ecology, School of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia
Host institution: Centre for Psychiatry, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom

Urban noise is known to increase the risk of arterial hypertension in adults, but there is a need for studies on the effects of noise on blood pressure of children. The aim of the project would be to explore and identify differences in methodology of previous studies on noise-induced changes of blood pressure in children, and to develop new research designs examining children’s blood pressure in relation to noise exposure, growth and development, and physiological or psychological stressors. The key learning objective of the project is to propose a novel and possibly simpler procedure of measuring blood pressure in children that would take into account the growth and development of a child (physiological, psychological, social factors), and exposure to urban noise. At the same time, this method would help eliminate the influence of acute stressors on blood pressure of children. The proposed methods could be applied as standard in future studies on noise exposure and cardiovascular effects in children. The expected outputs of this project are: to understand the relationship between noise exposure and blood pressure in children; to develop new standard methods for measuring blood pressure in children; and to propose these new methods for prediction of blood pressure levels in the future. The project would help the whole network of scientists to implement a novel and uniform strategy in future research, so that the results would be comparable and valid.

Patrik Sörqvist

Working memory capacity: A common mechanism across noise effects?

Home institute: Centre for Built Environment, University of Gävle, Sweden
Host institute: School of Psychology, Cardiff University, UK.

Ten years ago, the basis of individual differences in susceptibility to auditory distraction was largely unexplored. Based to a large extent on my own research, we now know that working memory capacity (WMC) plays a key-role in those differences across a range of noise effects. For instance, I have shown that low-WMC individuals are more distracted by noise while reading (Sörqvist, in press-a; Sörqvist, Halin, & Hygge, 2010; Sörqvist, Ljungberg, & Ljung, in press). In another recent study, I found that high-WMC individuals’ advantage seems to lie in their ability to better cope with surprising, unexpected, and competing sound stimulation (Sörqvist, in press-b). The purpose of the studies to be carried out in Cardiff are to test whether WMC as a common mechanism generalizes across yet unstudied paradigms. Specifically, Dr. John Marsh and I will investigate the role for WMC in short-term memory of semantic information.

Maria Foraster Pulido

Traffic-related noise and air pollution effects on blood pressure

Home Institute: Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, Barcelona, Spain (Jordi Sunyer)
Host Institute: Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine at Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland (Nino Künzli)

Noise and air pollution from road traffic are the most prevalent environmental exposures in urban areas. Both have been associated with cardiovascular effects, which may be interrelated. However, few studies focussing on air pollution or noise have considered that results may be confounded by the other environmental stressor. The ENNAH exchange programme in Basel will focus on cross-sectional analyses of the effects of traffic-related noise on hypertension in a population-based cohort (HERMES) in Girona, north-east Spain (N~4000). Results will be compared with data from Basel and potential exposure assessment limitations and effect moderating factors will be discussed. We will take into account air pollution as a confounder, based on a previous detailed characterisation of the exposures in Girona. This project will try to disentangle the cardiovascular effects of noise and air pollution and inform a better understanding of the effects of noise on hypertension. This study is part of the REGICOR-AIR project which studies the air pollution effects on atherosclerosis in Girona.

Helena Jahncke

The interrelation between speech intelligibility, cognitive performance and health in open-plan offices

Home Institute: University of Gävle (Sweden)
Host Institute: Fraunhofer-Institut für Bauphysik (Germany)

Open-plan offices are increasingly more common but there are concerns about the effects of noise on performance and health in these office-designs (see reviews by Navai & Veitch, 2003; Oommen, Knowles & Zhao, 2008; and Rashid & Zimring, 2008). Measures aiming at improving open-plan office acoustics focus on reducing noise levels and reverberation time. These measures may not resolve the noise problem in open-plan offices because thereby the intelligibility of background speech – which proves to be the main source of disturbance (e.g. Banbury and Berry 2005) – is even increased. The Speech Transmission Index (STI) has shown itself to be a useful criterion for the design of open-plan office acoustics. Research results show a high correlation between this physical parameter and cognitive performance (Hongisto 2005). A high STI value is not always good since intelligible speech in the background can disturb the ongoing tasks.

During the ENNAH exchange I will work together with researchers at Fraunhofer-Institut für Bauphysik in Stuttgart, Germany. The purpose of our planned studies is, first, to further assess the relationship between the STI and different cognitive performance measures, with varying difficulty, since it is assumed that STI values higher than 0.5 impair performance. Second, to explore which STI values can be achieved in open-plan offices using mainly office furniture for influencing sound absorption and transmission, since it is assumed that STI values lower than 0.5 can only be reached in the far field.

An experimental approach will be applied to investigate the relationship between the STI and cognitive performance measures of varying difficulty. Office noise recordings with different STI values derived from measurements in real offices will be made and applied to a laboratory setting with students as participants. Depending on the results these measures will be evaluated in a field study where real offices are going to be changed.

Katrin Ohlau

Health costs of aircraft noise

Home institution: Institute for Energy Economics and the Rational Use of Energy, University of Stuttgart, Germany
Host institution: Institut National de Recherche sur les Transports et leur Sécurité, France

The main focus of my work is noise monetisation regarding different methods and mainly applying these methods with the impact pathway approach, i.e. first noise levels are estimated, and then dose-response functions are applied to calculate health impacts and annoyance level distributions. Afterwards this is evaluated by transforming the impacts into monetary levels. Studies for assessing annoyance have been carried out with the contingent valuation method.

For the monetary evaluation of noise impacts, studies and reports were evaluated, where a wide range of real estate losses and health costs and loss of work and life were ascertained. It is assumed that the owner/lessee is aware of the disruption and annoyance caused by noise, which is not the case for health impacts. Due to the fact airlines and airports will likely face an increasing number of noise-impact constraints in the future, new studies, like “risk of nocturnal aircraft noise” from the German Federal Environment Agency, will help to improve health related issues regarding aircraft noise, which have to be discussed in detail with other experts in the context of monetary valuation, where a survey will be the best and fastest form to communicate these topics in a large community.

September 22, 2017, 23:17