Recreational Noise Exposure in New Zealand

Kim Dirks , Ingrid Dekker , Laura Scheib , Kierrin Svoboda , Aanchal Sharma

New Zealand Acoustics, 23(3), pp.4- 10 . (2010).

In New Zealand, legislation requires that the maximum workplace noise exposure not exceed an LAeq 8h of 85 dB in order to avoid the risk of developing a noise-induced hearing loss. However, this assumes that a worker is not exposed to any significant additional noise in their leisure time. For many young urban people in particular, much of their exposure may actually be attributed to noisy recreational rather than occupational activities. In order to begin to quantify recreational noise exposure amongst this group, sound level measurements associated with various popular recreational activities were made (such as nightclubs and live music events), and questionnaire data were collected and analysed along with some lab-based measurements associated with the use of personal listening devices (PLDs) and individual behaviour in the presence of background noise. Sound levels in nightclubs were found to be around 105 dBA. At this level, the daily maximum noise dose is exceeded in about 5 minutes. Results of a questionnaire suggest that exposure times are typically 2-3 hours with approximately 20% of people typically staying for longer than 3 hours. For live music events (rock concerts), sound levels were found to be 105-108 dBA with exposures ranging from 3-4 hours, with the daily allowable maximum exceeded in about 2.5-5 minutes. While the noise levels on buses and trains are typically low (73-82 dBA with the highest levels being recorded aboard old trains), lab-based studies of behaviour in the presence of background train and bus noise suggest that for a typical commute of one hour, about half of commuters exceed their daily dose based solely on their PLD use. Of these, about 5% of PLD users have their devices turned up to very high levels, irrespective of background noise.