Research demonstrates that we are soothed by the sounds of nature but that too much man-made noise, even if it isn’t sufficiently loud to cause hearing loss, generates harmful levels of stress. Results of a study published in Psychological Science (Vol 13, No 9) showed the effects of the relocation of Munich’s airport on the health of children at schools in the vicinity.

Researchers tested the reading, memory, hearing and attention of children at schools near the site of the old and the new airport, before and after its relocation.  They found that the comprehension skills and long-term memory of children near the old airport improved when the air traffic stopped.  However, the performance of the children near the new airport dropped within 18 months of its completion.

One of the psychologists involved with the study, Gary W Evans, suggested that children exposed to the aircraft noise developed a stress response that enabled them to ignore it.  Unfortunately, not only did they ignore the harmful stimuli, they also ignored the sounds to which they needed to pay attention.

In addition, children near the working airports were found to have higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol, and higher blood pressure readings – all of which are indicators of future health problems.