Noise Effect

What does noise affect?

Noise and Emissions

Noise and emissions are highly related. Changing an aircraft's design or operations can change its emissions. This may also affect the noise it makes. This close relationship between noise and emissions warrants the use of sophisticated environmental models. These models include variables such as:

  • aviation noise exposure
  • local air quality emissions
  • climate issues

An example of this interdependent relationship follows. Aircrafts can make changes in operations during takeoff, in flight or landing. A reduced thrust takeoff reduces the throttle setting during the takeoff and climb-out. A recent model analyzing reduced thrust procedures illustrated:

  • increases in CO2 and SOx
  • decreases in NOx and particulates on the emissions side
  • an overall reduction in noise exposure

Another aircraft operation that has an effect on both noise and emissions is the Continuous Descent Approach. See our section on Continuous Descent Approach for more information on this operation.

Changing operations to reduce noise can affect other factors. The FAA Aviation Environmental Design Tool is being developed to predict and evaluate these trade-offs. To learn more about the FAA's Environmental tool, click here

Content for Noise and Emissions based on article by: Iovinelli, R., Roof, C. "AEDT Interdependencies: Why Integrate Noise and Emissions?", FAA Office of Environment and Energy AEDT Newsletter, September 2007.

Property Values

Property within a noise zone (or Accident Potential Zone) may be affected by the availability of federally guaranteed loans. The following organizations provide guidance for this program:

  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • Veterans Administration (VA)

They state that sites are acceptable for program assistance, subsidy, or insurance for housing in noise zones of less than 65 DNL. In addition, sites are conditionally acceptable with special approvals and noise attenuation in:

  • the 65 to 75 DNL noise zone
  • the greater than 75 DNL noise zone

HUD's position is that noise is not the only determining factor for site acceptability. They state that properties should not be rejected only because of airport influences:

  • if there is evidence of acceptability within the market, and
  • if use of the dwelling is expected to continue

Similar to the Navy's and Air Force's Air Installation Compatible Use Zone Program, HUD, FHA, and VA recommend sound reduction for housing in the higher noise zones. They also recommend written disclosures to all prospective buyers or lessees of property within a noise zone.

The literature was reviewed to assess the effect of aircraft noise on property values (Newman and Beattie 1985). One paper suggested a 1.8 to 2.3 percent decrease in property value per decibel at three separate airports (Nelson 1978). At another period of time, they found only a 0.8 percent decrease in value per decibel change in DNL.

However, a decline in noise depreciation was also noted over time. The author thought this could be due to either:

  • noise-sensitive people being replaced by less noise-sensitive people, or
  • the increase in commercial value of the property near airports

Both of these ideas were supported by another researcher (Crowley 1978).

While a noise effect was observed, it is only one of many factors that affect housing decisions (Newman and Beattie 1985). Noise may affect your decision to move close to, or away from, an airport. However, you may also consider it an advantage to be close to an airport because of:

  • increased opportunities for employment, or
  • ready access to the airport itself

The reviewers found that decreases in property values usually range from 0.5 to 2 percent per decibel increase of collective noise exposure.

A more recent study looked at the effects of aircraft noise on actual sale prices of properties (Fidell, et al. 1996). These properties were near two military facilities. The researchers found that equations developed to predict residential sale prices worked equally well for:

  • an area unaffected by aircraft noise, and
  • areas with aircraft noise in excess of 65 DNL

So, the model worked equally well in predicting sale prices in areas with and without aircraft noise exposure. This indicates that aircraft noise had no meaningful effect on property values. In some cases, the average sale prices of noise exposed properties were somewhat higher than those elsewhere in the same area.

One researcher (Fidell, et al. 1996) found that when compared to homes elsewhere, the homes near the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base were:

  • much older
  • smaller
  • poorer condition

These factors caused the equations to be unsuitable for predicting sale prices of homes nearer the base. However, differences in sale prices between homes with and without aircraft noise were found frequently due to factors other than noise itself.

Noise Effects on Structures

Normally, the most sensitive parts of a structure to airborne noise are the windows. Though infrequent, plastered walls and ceilings can also be sensitive.

Peak sound pressures are normally assessed to determine the possibility of damage to a structure. In general, when peak sound levels are above 130 dB, structural parts are affected. Certain frequencies may cause more concern than others. For example, window breakage can occur at 30 hertz. However, only sounds lasting more than one second above 130 dB are potentially damaging to structural parts (Committee on Hearing, Bioacoustics, and Biomechanics 1977).

Noise-induced structural vibration may annoy occupants because of secondary vibrations. This includes the rattling of objects within the dwelling such as:

  • hanging pictures
  • dishes
  • plaques
  • bric-a-brac

You may also notice window panes vibrating when exposed to high levels of airborne noise. In general, such noise-induced vibrations occur at peak sound levels of 110 dB or greater. Thus, assessments of noise exposure levels for compatible land use should also be protective of noise-induced secondary vibrations.

Noise Effects on Terrain

Some suggest that low-flying aircraft noise may affect the terrain under the flight path by disturbing fragile soil or snow. Mountainous areas are of special concern due to landslide or avalanche potential. However, there are no known cases of such effects. It is considered unlikely that such effects would result from routine, subsonic aircraft operations.

Noise Effects on Historical and Archaeological Sites

The potential for increased weakness of structural components of historical buildings and sites is of concern. Aircraft noise may affect such sites more severely than newer, modern structures. Particularly in older structures, surface cracks may be initiated by vibrations from aircraft noise. These seemingly insignificant cracks may lead to greater damage from natural forces (Hanson, et al. 1991). There are few scientific studies of such effects to guide assessment.

One study involved the measurements of sound and structural vibration levels in a restored plantation house. It was originally built in 1795. It is now situated approximately 1,500 ft from a runway centerline at Washington Dulles International Airport. These measurements were made when it was proposed to operate the Concorde at Dulles (Wesler 1977). There was special concern for the building's windows, since roughly half of the 324 panes were original. No instances of structural damage were found. There were high levels of noise during Concorde takeoffs. However, the structural vibration levels were actually less than those caused by touring groups and vacuum cleaning.

Assessments of noise exposure levels for normally compatible land uses should also be protective of historic and archaeological sites.


Committee on Hearing, Bioacoustics, and Biomechanics. 1977. Guidelines for Preparing Environmental Impact Statements on Noise. The National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences.

Crowley, R.W. 1978. A Case Study of the Effects of an Airport on Land Values. Journal of Transportation Economics and Policy, Vol. 7. May.

Fidell, S., B. Tabachnick, and L. Silvati. 1996. Effects of Military Aircraft Noise on Residential Property Values.

Hanson, C.E., K.W. King, M.E. Eagan, and R.D. Horonjeff. 1991. Aircraft Noise Effects on Cultural Resources: Review of Technical Literature. Report No. HMMH-290940.04-1, available as PB93-205300, sponsored byNational Park Service, Denver CO.

Nelson, J.P. 1978. Economic Analysis of Transportation Noise Abatement. Ballenger Publishing Company, Cambridge, MA.

Newman, J.S., and K.R. Beattie. 1985. Aviation Noise Effects. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration Report No. FAA-EE-85-2.

Wesler, J.E. 1977. Concorde Operations At Dulles International Airport. NOISEXPO '77, Chicago, IL. March.