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Applied Acoustics 67 (2006) 271283

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Sound exposure during daily activities


Cesar Daz *, Antonio Pedrero
Laboratorio de Acustica y Vibraciones, ETS de Arquitectura,
U.P.M. Avda Juan de Herrera 4, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Received 18 November 2004; received in revised form 21 June 2005; accepted 22 June 2005
Available online 7 November 2005

Abstract
Throughout the day people carry out dierent activities in dierent places, and are therefore exposed to a wide range of sound environments. Sound exposure does not occur uniquely
in the work situation, but is also caused by non-occupational activities, such as leisure, transportation, shopping, etc.
This work shows the results of a study of the sound exposure experienced by a group of 32
people during one week in the Madrid Autonomous Region in Spain. The main aim of the
study is to determine the average sound exposure perceived by an inhabitant of the Madrid
region; to this end the sample was designed to comprise a cross-section of the population.
An analysis was made of the activities that most aect sound exposure, and of the contribution
of these activities to the total sound exposure. The results obtained show that in all population
groups, sound exposure is greatest on weekends. Leisure activities contribute most to the total
sound received, and young adults are subjected to the highest levels of sound exposure. The
results obtained in this work may be useful for local authorities in planning environmental
strategies.
2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Environmental noise levels; Sound exposure

Corresponding author. Tel.:+34 913366542; fax: +34 913366554.


E-mail address: cesar.diazs@upm.es (C. Daz).

0003-682X/$ - see front matter 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.apacoust.2005.06.005

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1. Introduction
Public awareness of environmental noise, its causes, and the eects it incurs
on citizens has increased in recent years [113]. The evaluation of sound in cities
has traditionally been approached from two dierent points of view. The rst
method has been to study the actual sound levels, which are then shown in noise
maps. The other method involves attempting to study the subjective perception
of noise by individuals qualitatively, usually by means of questionnaires and
surveys.
People usually carry out dierent activities throughout the day in dierent places,
and are therefore exposed to a varied range of sound environments. They are not
only exposed to sound in the work environment, on which there are many studies,
but also when involved in non-occupational activities such as leisure, transportation,
shopping, etc.
There are few studies available which analyse the sound exposure caused by occupational and non-occupational noise. Some of these studies refer to very specic sectors of the population. Others apply analysis times which are too short to be
representative of the daily activities of the people in the study [14,15].
This work shows the results of a pilot study to evaluate the sound levels to which
the inhabitants of the Madrid region are exposed, according to the activities they
habitually perform. The sound levels experienced by the participants during the
day were measured, and an analysis was made of the contribution of each of the
sound environments in which the participants performed their activities to the total
sound exposure. The aim of the study was not only to obtain conclusions as to the
overall sound exposure of the inhabitants of the Madrid region, but also to determine which activities most aect sound exposure, and to analyse the contribution
of each of these to the total sound exposure.
This study was conducted by attaching a logging noise dose meter to a sample of
32 inhabitants of the Madrid region. Each of the participants in the study carried the
logging noise dose meter for a week. Sound levels were thus recorded during both
their work and other activities, even at the weekend. In total 5173 h of sound data
were recorded and analysed.
Each participant also had to identify the activity and the length of time he or she
remained in the sound environment. This makes it possible to obtain detailed information about the sound levels occurring in the environments in which people carry
out their daily activities.
The methodology followed in this work allows us to follow the evolution of the
sound energy received by each of the participants throughout the week. It also makes
it possible to study the relative importance of each activity in the total dose of noise
received. Thus we can evaluate how far the sound exposure of the inhabitants of cities is conditioned by urban noise, and whether the contribution varies for dierent
age groups.
The results of the study show a wide disparity between the sound exposure of the
dierent participants. This is due to the fact that there is a great dierence between
the collaborators lifestyles, all of which involve very dierent activities. Leisure

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273

activities are revealed as one of the main sources of high sound exposure levels, while
noise during transportation makes a lower contribution to the received dose of noise.

2. The participants
The study was carried out on a sample chosen to represent a cross-section of the
inhabitants of the Madrid Autonomous Region from the point of view of age, social
class and work occupation. The ratio of men to women and the distribution by age
group were decided according to the data contained in the 19852004 yearbook for
the Madrid Region. These records also include information on the areas of activity
of the working population, which was used in the selection of the professions in the
study. Thirty-two volunteers took part in the study, 17 women and 15 men, who
were classied into three age groups: under-25, between 25 and 60, and over-60.
The population under 16 was excluded as the chosen methodology was unsuitable
for this sector of the population. The age of the participants ranges from 17 to 73,
and the average age is 36.
Most of the working population of the Madrid region, both men and women, are
in the age group between 25 and 60. As it was impossible to include representatives of
all the populations productive sectors in the study, it was decided to select participants with work activities considered predominant, such as administrative functions
or activities related with the commercial sector and the restaurant and hotel business.
Housewives were included, as they make up an important group. Some specic activities were also included, as is the case of a municipal policeman and a bus driver.
Taking into account all of the above, Table 1 shows the distribution of the participants by age group, specifying their occupation.

3. Measurement method
For this study, ve noise dose meters were used as the measuring equipment. The
noise dose meter used was a Bruel and Kjaer type 4433. These meters store the values
of the equivalent continuous sound level, LAeq, in an internal memory, in periods
preset by the user. The time interval selected for data storage was 10 s. The measuring equipment was protected against manipulation during the measurement time.
Unlike most studies with dose meters in the workplace, there was no acoustic
technician present while the measurements were taken; it was thus essential to instruct the participants carefully on the use of the measuring equipment. Before the
study the volunteers were given practical instructions on how to wear the dose meter,
how to attach and detach it and the best position for the microphone. They were also
told what to do when, for practical reasons, it was impossible to use the dose meter
in the conventional way, for example while sleeping or in the shower. In these cases
the microphone was placed on a small tripod on a piece of acoustically absorbent
material in the same room. The participants were also encouraged to carry on with
their normal routines throughout the measuring period.

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Table 1
Distribution of the participants by age group and occupation
Code

Occupation

Men
Under 25
31
7
2
16

University student
University student
Press reporter
University student

Between 25 and 60
30
5
10
13
14
23
25
29
26
27

University student
Shop assistant
Waiter
Policeman (motorcyclist)
Bus driver
Mechanic
Warehouse worker
Mechanic
Greengrocers assistant
Printer

Over 60
4

Pensioner

Women
Under 25
6
21
32
12

High school student


University student
University student
Oce manager

Between 25 and 60
9
28
22
24
1
18
3
15
11
19

Journalist
Psychologist
Radio announcer
Library assistant
Speech therapist
Journalist
Management secretary
Housewife
Housewife
Oce worker

Over 60
8
20
17

Housewife
Pensioner
Pensioner

During the measurement the participants made a note on a data collection sheet
of the activity they were carrying out at that time, which made it possible to obtain
the sound levels of the dierent sound environments they were in.

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275

For the measurement to be representative of the users sound exposure, the noise
dosimeter microphone must be located preferably next to his or her ear. In practice,
the microphone is usually fastened with a clip to the persons clothes, near the ear;
for example, on the side of the shirt collar.
The users inuence on the sound eld may over- or undercalculate existing noise
levels. First, the carriers body acts as a screen for the microphone which is more or
less noticeable depending on the position of the user relative to the source of noise.
Second, due to the proximity of the microphone to the speakers mouth, the dosimeter captures the users own voice, which would not occur in conventional measurements with the sound meter [16].
Taking into account the above considerations, it can be expected that measurements with a dosimeter will give results which are comparable to those obtained with
the sound meter when environmental noise levels are high (greater than the noise level of the carriers voice as received by the equipment), and when the user does not
remain static in relation to the source of noise. However, for sound environments
with low noise levels, measurements with dosimeters give higher values than those
with sound meters, which is basically due to the reception of the carriers voice.
Every 24 h, the recorded data were digitally transferred to the computer, where
they were processed with the software Bruel and Kjaer, type 7825 Protector,
and the system was calibrated acoustically. Fig. 1 shows the evolution over time
of the sound levels received by a participant in one day. The intervals assigned to
each category of sound environment are indicated.

Ocupacional

14/02/02 10:55:00 en Jueves 14-2-02


Peatonal Transportes Ocio Sueo

dB
100
90

80

70

60

50

40
30
13:00:00
17:00:00
21:00:00
LAeq
Cursor: 14/02/02 10:55:00 - 10:55:10 LAeq=61,5 dB

01:00:00

05:00:00

09:00:00

Fig. 1. Example of noise levels received by a participant during one day.

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4. Summary of the results


This section summarises and analyses the results of the 5173 h of sound measurements carried out. First the sound levels measured in dierent environments are given, and then the sound exposure received by the participants in this work.
The primary data obtained from the measuring instruments are the LAeq,10 s for
the measurement period. Based on these data, other useful descriptors have been calculated, such as LAeq,24 h, LAeq,week and sound exposure in Pa2 h.
The sound exposure E, in Pascal-squared hours, occurring within a time T, in
hours, is related to the equivalent continuous, A-weighted sound level; LAeq,T, in
dB by the equation
E p20 T  10

LAeq;T
10

Pa2 h;

p0 2.105 Pa.

4.1. Sound levels measured in the dierent environments


The people taking part in this experiment are of very dierent ages and are involved in a range of activities. Therefore a wide variety of sound environments is
classied. There are more hours of sound measurements for the more frequent
activities.
In order to facilitate analysis, the data have been classied into seven categories of
sound environments, and each of these contain activities of the same kind. The classication in the section does not take into account the activity carried out by the collaborator in a particular sound environment. The categories of sound environments
and their activities have been classied as follows: DOMESTIC (activities in the
home); EDUCATION (activities performed in education centres); LEISURE (data
relating to leisure activities); OCCUPATIONAL (contains data relating to the noise
received by the participant during their work activities); SHOPPING (shopping in
dierent types of shops and shopping centres); SLEEP (the period of night rest);
TRANSPORTATION (data relating to all journeys, either on foot or by any means
of transport).
Table 2 shows the results, with the time spent in each of the environments dened
by the collaborators: the measured time elapsed in each activity and the equivalent
continuous sound level, LAeq and the range of the equivalent continuous sound level
measured by the participants in the respective activity.
4.2. Overall results
The average LAeq of the 5173 h of measurements carried out in the dierent activities is 78.5 dB.
One of the main aims of the study was to determine the relative contribution of
the dierent activities of urban dwellers to the total sound exposure perceived.
Fig. 2 shows the dierent activities and the percentage of sound exposure that they
contribute; it could be said to represent the distribution by activity of the sound

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277

Table 2
Noise levels and duration of each activity
Sound environment
categories

Activity

LAeq
(dB)

Range LAeq
participants (dB)

Leisure

Outdoor sports
Indoor sports
Various outdoor activities
Night club
Cafeteria
Soccer pitch
Internet-cafe
Cinema
Church services
Discotheque
Rock band rehearsal
Museums and galleries
Restaurant
Musical theatre

8090
25,200
64,410
117,180
408,110
10,800
2670
61,150
11,990
9660
20,140
4500
75,260
10,590

0.04
0.14
0.35
0.63
2.20
0.06
0.01
0.33
0.06
0.05
0.11
0.02
0.41
0.06

82.1
77.9
82.0
96.7
82.9
88.8
59.7
79.3
75.2
95.2
98.4
81.9
82.8
87.6

67.585.8
62.783.6
55.189.0
85.4102.3
65.394.8
88.888.8
59.759.7
70.383.7
69.277.8
90.799.8
94.599.8
81.981.9
71.791.2
87.687.6

Education

Adult education classroom


Small classroom
Secondary school (school day)
Library oce
Primary school (exit door)
School meeting
University (daily activities)

20,130
207,250
79,440
108,230
32,830
8680
526,520

0.11
1.12
0.43
0.58
0.18
0.05
2.84

63.2
78.7
73.6
69.2
86.2
76.2
73.5

62.764.0
63.883.3
70.680.7
66.471.4
75.690.4
74.677.3
62.973.5

Domestic

At home
At home with music
At home with TV
Home study
Get-together at home
Housework

3,311,720
202,670
1,918,920
343,010
192,390
539,680

17.85
1.09
10.35
1.85
1.04
2.91

66.4
70.8
69.1
63.1
81.7
72.3

25.088.8
37.983.9
43.884.0
36.071.4
64.386.6
39.087.2

Occupational

Warehouse
Doctors surgery
Carwash
Large oce
Small oce
Fire station
Printers shop
Airport workshop
Mechanics workshop

166,510
6620
510
942,630
259,990
3140
93,700
205,090
157,590

0.90
0.04
0.00
5.08
1.40
0.02
0.51
1.11
0.85

74.4
70.1
87.3
74.5
70.9
74.7
77.0
85.5
80.5

67.081.5
61.271.4
87.387.3
47.391.1
57.081.0
74.774.7
70.781.7
81.689.3
64.882.4

Shopping

Shopping centre
Department store
Covered market
Supermarket
Small shop

9550
95,860
220,810
9530
136,470

0.05
0.52
1.19
0.05
0.74

80.6
80.6
82.5
76.7
68.7

74.085.4
60.689.0
68.584.2
66.281.5
64.279.3

6,072,000

32.74

39.3

18.952.2

191,700
71,250
612,060
199,370
35,410
737,190

1.03
0.38
3.30
1.07
0.19
3.97

75.6
76.0
79.7
78.8
87.0
79.4

60.384.7
67.982.6
40.796.8
64.588.1
52.693.2
40.099.0

Sleep

Sleep

Transportation

Bus
Commuter train
Car
Underground
Motorcycle
Pedestrian

Measured
time (s)

% Total
time

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Fig. 2. Contribution of the dierent activities to global sound exposure.

exposure perceived by the average inhabitant of the Madrid region. One interesting
result is that the Transportation category, so fundamental to city life as it includes
not only the means of transport themselves but also the eect of environmental noise
on pedestrians, contributes less than 13% to the total sound exposure. Leisure activities, on the other hand, are responsible for the greatest part of the sound exposure.
Table 3 shows the measurement time for each of the categories of sound environment, average LAeq, the percentage of the total time, the total sound exposure in
Pa2 h and the percentage of the total sound exposure. It is remarkable that leisure
activities, with 4.5% of the time measured, give a sound exposure of 64.6%. The
opposite happens in domestic and sleep activities.
4.3. Sound exposure of the participants
Fig. 3 shows the weekly total sound exposure for each of the participants. The
sound exposure received by the under-25 age group is worth noting; they spend their
time in environments with higher sound levels than other age groups. Fig. 4 shows

Table 3
Measurement times, in seconds; average LAeq, percentage of total time, and the sum of the sound exposure
for each category of sound environment
Categories of sound environments

Time (s)

LAeq (dB)

% Time

Sound exposure E (Pa2 h)

%E

Leisure
Education
Domestic
Occupational
Shopping
Sleep
Transportation

829,750
983,080
6,508,390
1,835,780
472,220
6,072,000
1,846,980

90.1
76.5
70.4
78.5
80.5
39.3
79.5

4.5
5.3
35.1
9.9
2.5
32.7
10.0

93.5607
4.8976
7.8536
14.4068
5.8789
0.0057
18.2009

64.6
3.4
5.4
9.9
4.1
0.0
12.6

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279

Weekly Sound Exposure


30
25

E(Pa 2.h)

20
15
10
5
0
2 16 21 9 23 26 1 11 29 28 5 6 13 8 18 27 3 30 31 22 10 14 15 12 32 25 17 19 7 20 4 24

Participants

Fig. 3. Weekly total sound exposure for each participant.

LAeq, week
90,0
85,0

L Aeq, week (dB)

80,0
75,0
70,0
65,0
60,0
55,0
50,0

2 16 21 9 23 26 1 11 29 28 5

6 13 8 18 27 3 30 31 22 10 14 15 12 32 25 17 19 7 20 4 24

Participants
Fig. 4. LAeq,

week

received by each participant.

the LAeq, week for each of the participants during the week. The average value for each
of the participants during the week is 74.9 dB, and more than 84% exceed 70 dB.
The analysis of the results by age group and during the dierent days of the week
is shown in the following gures. In order to carry out the calculations, the day has
been considered to begin at 00.00 h. For example, part of the sound levels received
on the night of Saturday/Sunday are shown in the gures for Sunday.
Fig. 5 shows the average LAeq,24 h for each age group for each day of the week and
Fig. 6 the average daily sound exposure. In both graphs, the weekend gures for the
under-25s stand out, as they spend their time in noisier sound environments than the
other groups.

C. Daz, A. Pedrero / Applied Acoustics 67 (2006) 271283

280

Under 25
Between 25 and 60
Over 60
90,0
85,0

L Aeq,24H (dB)

80,0
75,0
70,0
65,0
60,0

Sunday

Friday

Thursday

Wednesday

Tuesday

Monday

50,0

Saturday

55,0

Fig. 5. Average LAeq,24 h for each age group for each day of the week.

Under 25
Between 25 and 60
Over 60
40
35

25
20
15
10

Fig. 6. Average daily sound exposure.

Sunday

Friday

Thursday

Wednesday

Tuesday

Saturday

Monday

E(Pa .h)

30

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281

Under 25

Between 25 and 60

Over 60

87,8%

41,7%

40,8%

30,3%
22,6%

Occupational

0,0% 0,3%

0,0%
0,0% 0,0%

7,4%

Sleep

2,2%

Shopping

6,7%
0,0% 1,0%

Domestic

1,4%

19,6%
9,8% 9,4%

Transportation

10,9%

8,1%

Education

100,0%
90,0%
80,0%
70,0%
60,0%
50,0%
40,0%
30,0%
20,0%
10,0%
0,0%

Leisure

%E (Pa 2.h)

Fig. 7 shows the percentages of sound exposure for each age group according to
the sound environments selected. In each group the sum of the percentages of the
dierent categories of sound environment is 100%. In the under-25 age group,
87.8% of their weekly sound exposure is received in leisure activities. The sound
exposure received by the 2560 age group is spread more evenly over the dierent
leisure activities, workplace and transportation. The over-60 age group receives most
of its weekly sound exposure in domestic activities and transportation.

Fig. 7. Sound exposure received by each age group, in percentages, in the dierent categories of sound
environment.

% Sound Exposure

% Time

45,0%
40,0%
35,0%
30,0%
25,0%
20,0%
15,0%
10,0%
5,0%
0,0%
Bus

Commuter
train

Car

Underground

Motorcycle

Pedestrian

Fig. 8. Sound exposure percentages and time for each transportation activity.

C. Daz, A. Pedrero / Applied Acoustics 67 (2006) 271283

282

Table 4
Sound exposure percentages and times of each transportation activity by age group
Age
group

Transportation
Bus

Commuter
train

Car

Underground

Motorcycle

Pedestrian

%E %
%E %
%E %
% E % Time % E % Time % E % Time
Time
Time
Time
Under 25
Between 25
and 60
Over 60

1.8
4.8

3.4
12.2

3.5
0.8

9.3
2.4

29.2
40.7

18.0
41.7

12.7
8.0

20.5
8.6

16.6
8.4

5.9
0.7

36.1
37.2

42.8
34.4

14.4

16.1

0.0

0.0

3.4

5.2

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

82.3

78.7

Fig. 8 shows the activities included in the category of transportation and the contribution of each one to the sound exposure in this category. Walking is the form of
transportation with the greatest duration and sound exposure, followed by driving.
Table 4 shows that the over-60s are the age group which spends most time walking
and thus has more sound exposure, followed by the under-25s. The 2560 age group
spends more time driving and thus receives greater sound exposure in this activity.
The sound levels inside vehicles are high, basically due to listening to music and radio.
5. Conclusions
The acoustic levels obtained for some sound environments are greater than expected. In general, measurements with a noise dose meter can produce results which
dier from those obtained in the same sound environments with a conventional
sound level meter [16]. This is basically due to the interference that the user himself
exercises on the sound eld.
The data obtained leads to the conclusion that leisure activities [17,18] contribute
most to total sound exposure (64.6%), followed by sound exposure during transportation (12.6%) and in the workplace (9.9%).
All age groups receive their greatest sound exposure at the weekend. In particular,
the under-25 age group receives the greatest amount of weekly sound exposure;
moreover 76% of this quantity is received at the weekends in leisure activities.
The 2560 age group shows fewer variations in the LAeq, day and the sound exposure than the other age groups, basically due to the occupational noise exposure on
weekdays.
The over-60 age group receives the greatest sound exposure during transportation. This is the group which spends most time walking, and is thus most aected
by city noise.
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