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The members of the research group Sound environment and health
Photo: Sofie Fredriksson
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Sound environment and health

Research group

Short description

We conduct interdisciplinary research on the importance of the sound environment for human health in a life cycle perspective. Our vision is that people are entitled to a sound environment that contributes to good health and quality of life in all ages. Our research includes epidemiological and experimental studies. A large part of our focus is now on how children are affected by noise during their development. Other important research areas are the impact on hearing and health in female-dominated workplaces and the long-term impact of noise in the living environment. Our unique sound environment laboratory, built in 2006, has well-controlled sound and vibration exposure in a homely environment, which provides good opportunities to investigate the effects of noise and vibration on, for example, sleep.

Research areas

We research sound and noise in four different main areas:

  • Environmental noise: Noise from wind turbines, train traffic and road traffic affect people's health and well-being.
  • Noise in female-dominated occupations: Effects of work-related noise. The focus is on communication-intensive occupations such as school, preschool and healthcare, where the majority of employees are women.
  • Children and noise: How children are affected by noise. Our projects have mainly focused on the sound environment in preschools and schools.
  • Low-frequency noise: Since 1985 the research group has investigated how low-frequency noise affects humans. Among other things, the group has been responsible for the scientific basis for the Swedish limit values for low-frequency indoor noise (SOSFS 1996:7 revised 2005:6) and low-frequency noise in the work environment (AFS 2005:16).

Current research projects

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Microphones and other research equipment for sound measurement in a preschool.
Measurement of sound levels in a preschool.

EqualLife has been granted 12 million Euros within Horizon 2020. Our research group is responsible for one sub-project and participates in another 6 sub-projects. The project aims to explore the relationship between mental health and the overall exposure of the individual in a life cycle perspective. The intention is also to find out what a health-promoting, recovering environment is for children and young people in different ages and stages of development. The focus is on children and young people from 0 to 21 years. Participants are a total of 20 different partners from twelve countries with expertise in public health, environmental medicine, child psychology, environmental psychology, architecture, epidemiology, environmental and geographical planning, microbiology, neurobiology, medicine, physics, information and communication technology, and statistical modelling.

Financier: EU Horizon 2020

This project aims to understand the effects of long-term exposure to vibrations, investigating health effects of exposure to vibrations and noise from rail traffic. The project uses two approaches: a quantitative study using a self-reported questionnaire and objective health register data and an interview study. The main study is a quantitative study with questions focusing on disturbance and health to those living along a railway. The health effects will be evaluated both with self-reported questions about sleep and health as well as objective health register data. Outcomes include the effect on sleep, fatigue and cardio-metabolic diseases.

Financier: Swedish Transport Administration, FORMAS
 

Our research group is responsible for a sub-project within ElectriCity (collaboration for electrified public transport in Västra Götaland). The purpose is to provide scientifically based answers to questions about how changed noise exposure from public transport diesel buses during the transition to electric buses affects residents by potentially reduced general noise disturbance, sleep disturbance and increased quality of the home environment. The change is being studied through a socio-acoustic study in collaboration with RISE among residents along bus line 60 in Gothenburg, before and after diesel hybrid buses have been replaced by electrified buses. The results contribute to the work of assessing how electrified public transport can be used in noise-sensitive areas.

Financiers: Västra Götaland Region (Public Transport Board, Regional Development Board), City of Gothenburg (Environmental Administration, Transport Administration).

In many female-dominated human service professions, personnel are exposed to high noise levels from human voices and activity. Our previous studies have shown an increased risk of hearing-related symptoms and noise annoyance is common. In these professions, it can be difficult to protect oneself from loud noises. We are now conducting a longitudinal follow-up of 10,000 women with the aim of clarifying existing connections between exposure to noise and stress and the impact on physical and mental health as well as reduced work function with a focus on preventive factors for maintained health and work function. In qualitative studies among personnel in education and obstetrics care, preventive needs are nuanced, and the applicability of preventive factors is evaluated in order to then, together with staff and management, implement interventions in preschool and obstetrics care.

Financier: Forte

How should preschools be designed to optimise the conditions for the indoor sound environment to support children’s development and facilitate the work children do during preschool? The project wants to answer that question through surveys of about thirty preschools, mainly in the Gothenburg area. We will measure room acoustics, sound levels, temporary effects on the hearing function and evaluate psychoacoustic parameters of recorded preschool sounds. In addition, we will measure children's experiences of their sound environment by questionnaire interviews. The work in SPACE is expected to increase the knowledge that can be used to develop more adequate acoustic requirements and recommendations on preschool design and furnishing. These building-related quality criteria should be based on children's perspective, their hearing, their experiences and the development work they do during their preschool period.

Financier: FORMAS

The sound environment in many preschools is problematic at the same time as the children are in an intensive development period. Children are exposed to such high noise levels that there is a risk that their hearing may be damaged. An inadequate sound environment can mean impaired conditions for learning a language, developing their thinking, becoming emotionally aware, dealing with difficult situations and leaving room for negative social behaviours. The research project is conducted at about thirty preschools, mainly in the Gothenburg area. The project measures children's hearing, language level and emotional expression related to their sound environment. With the help of questionnaire interviews, children's own experiences of the sound environment are also measured. In a parallel project, room acoustics and sound levels are measured.

Financier: Forte

NordSOUND is a Scandinavian research project funded by NordForsk, which runs from 2017-2021. The objective is to study single and joint effects of traffic and occupational noise on development of cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, pregnancy complications, low birth weight, perinatal mortality, and congenital malformations. The study will also estimate the burden of disease resulting from noise and the socio-economic inequalities in the distribution of traffic noise and the relationship between noise and health.

Financier: NordForsk

You can find more information on the project's own website

A person has an earplug with tiny cables going into it during a phonometry.

History

Research on the effects of noise has been performed within Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Gothenburg (formerly Environmental Medicine) since as early as 1975. In the beginning the research was mainly focused on effects of road traffic noise, such as general noise disturbance and sleep disturbance, which were highlighted in a series of experimental studies in the previous sound laboratory. The early field studies were conducted both in industrial environments and in residential areas, where both the effects of road traffic and air traffic were highlighted.

Later, the research has been expanded to include other types of noise sources such as train traffic, low-frequency noise and wind power, other types of effects, as well as research on health-promoting positive soundscapes.

The Sound Environment Laboratory

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A man is sitting on a chair and an investigator uses different equipment in a sound measurement experiment.
Photo: Malin Arnesson

 

A unique sound environment laboratory was built in 2006. It is located at the Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg. The laboratory enables studies on how different sound environments affect us humans, with well-controlled conditions, for example noise from different types of transportation, ventilation noise, interaction between sound environment and visual environment and between sound and vibrations. The effects we assess mainly relate to general noise disturbance and sleep disturbance, effects on speech communication, learning, recovery, emotional states, and work performance.

The lab has two floors. Upstairs is the control room with the sound system and four exposure rooms with very low background noise: three bedrooms and one larger exposure room where the interior can be adapted for the specific project. On the ground floor is a home-like apartment, which is used mainly by participants in sleep studies who live in the laboratory for up to a week.

The laboratory is specially designed with the goal that background noise level should be below the hearing threshold. Each exposure room is built as a separate module, which isolates the rooms from ground borne noise or vibration from the outside. The ventilation system is specially designed with the air coming from a damped, separate fan assembly located elsewhere in the building. In the rooms, the air diffuses silently. The background noise level from the ventilation is very low, about 13 dBA. The acoustic features of the rooms are specially designed to obtain as evenly distributed a sound field as possible. The walls are slanted to reduce regular sound reflections and several hundred speakers are placed in walls, ceilings and corners to be able to produce a sound field that spreads evenly. The sound is controlled digitally from a separate control room and the system provides good conditions for simulating widely differing sound environments.

You can find more detailed information on the acoustic properties of the laboratory (report in Swedish): Sound laboratories - verification of sound fields (pdf)

Three wind turbine propellers.
One of the studies performed by the research group shows that noise from wind turbines affects people's dream sleep and how rested they feel.
Photo: Genrebild Matton images

Collaboration, sound demonstrations and leasing

The sound environment laboratory is also used for audio demonstrations and the laboratory can be leased. For example, employees at the Swedish Transport Administration have visited the laboratory and got to experience how 55 decibels from road traffic noise sounds like in different environments and how vibrations from trains feel like when lying in a bed. We are also open to collaboration in interesting research projects!

Please contact Kerstin Persson Waye for more information. 

Scientific publications

  • Sofie Fredriksson; Jeong-Lim Kim; Kjell Torén; Kim R. Kähäri; Mia Söderberg; Kerstin Persson Waye (2019).
    Working in preschool increases the risk of hearing-related symptoms: a cohort study among Swedish women ISSN: 0340-0131, GUP 282199
  • A. Enoksson Wallas; C. Eriksson; A. K. Edstedt Bonamy; O. Gruzieva; I. Kull; Mikael Ögren; A. Pyko; M. Sjöström; G. Pershagen (2019).
    Traffic noise and other determinants of blood pressure in adolescence ISSN: 1438-4639, GUP 281627
  • A. Pyko; N. Andersson; C. Eriksson; U. de Faire; T. Lind; N. Mitkovskaya; Mikael Ögren; C. G. Ostenson; N. L. Pedersen; D. Rizzuto; A. K. Wallas; G. Pershagen (2019).
    Long-term transportation noise exposure and incidence of ischaemic heart disease and stroke: a cohort study ISSN: 1351-0711, GUP 282066
  • Kerstin Persson Waye; Sofie Fredriksson; Laith Hussain-Alkhateeb; Johanna Gustafsson; Irene van Kamp (2019).
    Preschool teachers’ perspective on how high noise levels at preschool affect children’s behavior, GUP 279291
  • A. Wallas; S. Ekström; A. Bergström; C. Eriksson; O. Gruzieva; M. Sjöström; A. Pyko; Mikael Ögren; M. Bottai; G. Pershagen (2019).
    Traffic noise exposure in relation to adverse birth outcomes and body mass between birth and adolescence ISSN: 00139351 (ISSN), GUP 274372
  • Michael Smith; Mikael Ögren; Julia Ageborg Morsing; Kerstin Persson Waye (2019).
    Effects of ground-borne noise from railway tunnels on sleep: A polysomnographic study ISSN: 0360-1323, GUP 278000
  • Kerstin Persson Waye; Michael Smith; Laith Hussain-Alkhateeb; A. Koopman; Mikael Ögren; E. Peris; D. Waddington; J. Woodcock; C. Sharp; S. Janssen (2019).
    Assessing the exposure-response relationship of sleep disturbance and vibration in field and laboratory settings ISSN: 0269-7491, GUP 274122
  • P. Thorsson; Kerstin Persson Waye; Mikael Ögren; Michael Smith; E. Pedersen; J. Forssen (2019).
    Creating sound immission mimicking real-life characteristics from a single wind turbine ISSN: 0003-682X, GUP 273636
  • Michael Smith; Mikael Ögren; Julia Ageborg Morsing; Tomas Jerson; Kerstin Persson Waye (2018).
    The effects on sleep of ground borne noise from trains in tunnels ISSN: 2226-5147, GUP 268052
  • Sofie Fredriksson (2018).
    Hearing-related symptoms among women - Occurrence and risk in relation to occupational noise and stressful working conditions, GUP 271777
  • Julia Ageborg Morsing; M. G. Smith; Mikael Ögren; P. Thorsson; E. Pedersen; J. Forssén; Kerstin Persson Waye (2018).
    Wind Turbine Noise and Sleep: Pilot Studies on the Influence of Noise Characteristics ISSN: 1660-4601, GUP 273921
  • Mikael Ögren; Peter Molnár; Lars Barregård (2018).
    Road traffic noise abatement scenarios in Gothenburg 2015 – 2035 ISSN: 0013-9351, GUP 265875
  • A. Pyko; T. Lind; N. Mitkovskaya; Mikael Ögren; C. G. Ostenson; A. Wallas; G. Pershagen; C. Eriksson (2018).
    Transportation noise and incidence of hypertension ISSN: 1438-4639, GUP 271750
  • Lotta Johansson; Berit Lindahl; Susanne Knutsson; Mikael Ögren; Kerstin Persson Waye; Mona Ringdal (2018).
    Evaluation of a sound environment intervention in an ICU:A feasibility study ISSN: 1036-7314, GUP 254543
  • Laura Maclachlan; Mikael Ögren; Elise Elise van Kempen; Laith Hussain-Alkhateeb; Kerstin Persson Waye (2018).
    Annoyance in Response to Vibrations from Railways ISSN: 1660-4601, GUP 270211
  • N. G. Vardaxis; D. Bard; Kerstin Persson Waye (2018).
    Review of acoustic comfort evaluation in dwellings-part I: Associations of acoustic field data to subjective responses from building surveys ISSN: 1351-010X, GUP 268900
  • Pontus Thorsson; Kerstin Persson Waye; Michael Smith; Mikael Ögren; Eja Pedersen; Jen Forssén (2018).
    Low-frequency outdoor–indoor noise level difference for wind turbine assessment ISSN: 0001-4966, GUP 265320
  • A. Wallas; C. Eriksson; O. Gruzieva; T. Lind; A. Pyko; M. Sjostrom; Mikael Ögren; G. Pershagen (2018).
    Road traffic noise and determinants of saliva cortisol levels among adolescents ISSN: 1438-4639, GUP 267675
  • Sofie Fredriksson; Laith Hussain-Alkhateeb; Kerstin Persson Waye (2017).
    The effect of occupational noise on hearing-related symptoms - exploring mediating and modifying effect of annoyance and stress, GUP 282200
  • Michael Smith (2017).
    The impact of railway vibration and noise on sleep, GUP 257200
  • Kerstin Persson Waye; Michael Smith; Mikael Ögren (2017).
    Hälsopåverkan av lågfrekvent buller inomhus, GUP 256172
  • Michael Smith; Mikael Ögren; Pontus Thorsson; Laith Hussain-Alkhateeb; Eja Pedersen; Jens Forssén; Julia Ageborg Morsing; Kerstin Persson Waye (2017).
    Wind Turbine Noise Effects on Sleep: The WiTNES study, GUP 252576
  • Ilona Croy; Michael Smith; Anita Gidlöf-Gunnarsson; Kerstin Persson Waye (2017).
    Optimal questions for sleep in epidemiological studies: Comparisons of subjective and objective measures in laboratory and field studies ISSN: 1540-2002, GUP 236167
  • A. Pyko; C. Eriksson; T. Lind; N. Mitkovskaya; A. Wallas; Mikael Ögren; C. G. Ostenson; G. Pershagen (2017).
    Long-Term Exposure to Transportation Noise in Relation to Development of Obesity-a Cohort Study ISSN: 0091-6765, GUP 262314
  • Laura Maclachlan; Kerstin Persson Waye; Eja Pedersen (2017).
    Exploring Perception of Vibrations from Rail: An Interview Study ISSN: 1660-4601, GUP 258747
  • Mikael Ögren; Anita Gidlöf-Gunnarsson; Michael Smith; Sara Gustavsson; Kerstin Persson Waye (2017).
    Comparison of annoyance from railway noise and railway vibration ISSN: 1660-4601, GUP 255521
  • Michael Smith; Ilona Croy; Mikael Ögren; Oscar Hammar; Eva Lindberg; Kerstin Persson Waye (2017).
    Physiological effects of railway vibration and noise on sleep ISSN: 0001-4966, GUP 253636
  • Kerstin Persson Waye; Irene van Kamp; Jeong-Lim Kim (2016).
    Acoustic intervention at preschools impact on children´s perception and response to high frequency sound qualities ISSN: 2415-1599, GUP 248710
  • Michael Smith; Mikael Ögren; Pontus Thorsson; Eja Pedersen; Kerstin Persson Waye (2016).
    Physiological effects of wind turbine noise on sleep, GUP 241942
  • Sofie Fredriksson; Jeong-Lim Kim; Kjell Torén; Kim R. Kähäri; Lennart Magnusson; Kerstin Persson Waye (2016).
    Preschool teachers have an increased risk of hearing-related symptoms and report more occupational noise exposure compared to randomly selected women, GUP 242640
  • Sofie Fredriksson; Oscar Hammar; Lennart Magnusson; Kim R. Kähäri; Kerstin Persson Waye (2016).
    Validating self-reporting of hearing-related symptoms against pure-tone audiometry, otoacoustic emission, and speech audiometry ISSN: 1499-2027, GUP 236900
  • Mikael Ögren; Lars Barregård (2016).
    Road Traffic Noise Exposure in Gothenburg 1975–2010 ISSN: 1932-6203, GUP 236792
  • Michael Smith; Ilona Croy; Oscar Hammar; Kerstin Persson Waye (2016).
    Vibration from freight trains fragments sleep: A polysomnographic study. ISSN: 2045-2322, GUP 234880
  • Sofie Fredriksson; Kjell Torén; Kim R. Kähäri; Lennart Magnusson; Jeong-Lim Kim; Kerstin Persson Waye (2016).
    Ökad risk för hörselsymtom bland förskollärare, GUP 233373
  • Sofie Fredriksson; Oscar Hammar; Kjell Torén; Artur Tenenbaum; Kerstin Persson Waye (2015).
    The effect of occupational noise exposure on tinnitus and sound-induced auditory fatigue among obstetrics personnel: a cross-sectional study. ISSN: 2044-6055, GUP 214844
  • Michael Smith; Mikael Ögren; Kerstin Persson Waye (2015).
    Physiological reaction thresholds to vibration during sleep, GUP 226146
  • David Waddington; James Woodcock; Michael Smith; Sabine Janssen; Kerstin Persson Waye (2015).
    CargoVibes: Human response to vibration due to freight rail traffic ISSN: 2324-8378, GUP 221351
  • David Waddington; James Woodcock; Eulalia Peris; Calum Sharp; Gennaro Sica; Andy Moorhouse; Kerstin Persson Waye; Michael Smith; Ilona Croy; Oscar Hammar; Mikael Ögren; Sabine Janssen; Arnold Koopman; Henk Vos; Witold Groll; Karolina Wiśniewska (2015).
    CargoVibes: Human response to vibration due to freight rail traffic, GUP 218929
  • Mikael Ögren; Michael Smith; Kerstin Persson Waye (2015).
    Comparison of annoyance from railway noise and railway vibration, GUP 218089
  • Irene van Kamp; Kerstin Persson Waye; Anita Gidlöf-Gunnarsson (2015).
    The Effects of Noise Disturbed Sleep in Children on Cognitive Development and Long Term Health ISSN: 2375-4494, GUP 218183
  • Tee Guidotti; Davies Hugh; Yves Gagnon; Christian Giguère; Sheryl Grace; Robert Harrison; Brian Howe; David Johnson; Kerstin Persson Waye; Jennifer Roberts (2015).
    Understanding the Evidence: Wind Turbine Noise, GUP 218188
  • Kerstin Persson Waye; Lennart Magnusson; Sofie Fredriksson; Ilona Croy (2015).
    A Screening Approach for Classroom Acoustics Using Web-Based Listening Tests and Subjective Ratings ISSN: 1932-6203, GUP 213564
  • Michael Smith; Mikael Ögren; Oscar Hammar; Kerstin Persson Waye (2015).
    Physiological reaction thresholds to vibration during sleep, GUP 213222