Aircraft noise pollution is annoying, and studies show, that it damages your health. How do children cope with the noise caused by airplanes? A new study examined the risks of aircraft noise pollution for children living in the vicinity of the Cologne / Bonn Airport.
According to a study conducted by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, children sleep worse in areas that are more heavily affected by aircraft noise. However, in the morning, they do not feel more tired than other children. ‘We have got the impression that aircraft noise in everyday life is not as important for the children as it is for the adults,’ says Project Manager Susanne Bartels.
Children wake up with a lower probability than adults at the same level of aircraft noise pollution. But unlike adults, children’s sense of disturbance or annoyance about nocturnal aircraft noise does not depend on the actual measured aircraft noise level. Decisive are rather individual characteristics such as sensitivity to noise or personal fears related to airplanes.
In the study, Bartels and her colleague Julia Quehl investigated the effects of aircraft noise on the sleep of elementary school children through night-time traffic in the vicinity of Cologne / Bonn Airport. 51 eight- to ten-year-old children were cabled with measuring instruments on four evenings in a row before going to bed. The devices provided data on sleep, heartbeat, brain waves, eye, and muscle movements. At the same time, microphones positioned on the children’s ears recorded the level of aircraft noise pollution from the outside. In the morning, the researchers questioned children about the quality of their sleep.
Deep sleep plays a vital role in the mental and physical development and recovery of children. Children experience a notable reduction in deep sleep in more heavily noise polluted areas. ‘But one cannot say that the children automatically become ill through the reduction in deep sleep,’ says psychologist Bartels. The results are not transferable to the environment of other airports such as Frankfurt or Dusseldorf. These airports have core rest periods at night to curb aircraft noise pollution. In these areas, children might benefit from the rest periods. But perhaps they suffer more from the increased noise during the higher air traffic during marginal times.