Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Soundscape studies

The soundscape studies of the RANCH-project consist of three complementary parts of research. The first part refers to new attempts to map children's acoustic exposures over the 24 hours (at school and at home) as well as to assess comparatively children and parents' perceived soundscapes. The second part refers to new attempts to assess children's opportunities for psychological restoration at home, under the assumption that the availability of acoustically restorative sub-environments may constitute a protective or supportive factor. The third part refers to a children's health evaluation model in which children's general health is modelled as a function of acoustic exposures at school and at home with annoyance to road-traffic and aircraft noise as intervening variables and psychological restoration, sleep quality and parental social support as modifying protective factors.

In the first part of research, children's and adult's 24 hour acoustic soundscapes were mapped by sound recordings, indoors and outdoors, at homes and schools. Two laboratory experiments were conducted (UK and Sweden), in which children and adults assessed loudness and pleasantness of soundscapes. The UK study focused on soundscapes dominated by aircraft and road traffic noise at school, and the Swedish study on soundscapes dominated by road traffic noise at home. It was found that children are as skilled as their parents in assessing the loudness of sounds and in judging the unpleasantness of soundscapes. This supports the validity of annoyance responses in children, i.e., children are as able as adults to judge and respond to noise. Moreover, children from a wide-range of aircraft noise exposures did not differ in their judgements of soundscapes. This means that children respond to noise in the same way regardless of their level of chronic noise exposure. For both children and adults, the relationship between unpleasantness and sound level of soundscapes were clearly weaker than the corresponding relationship for loudness. Thus, conventional acoustical measures based on A-weighted sound level constitute a model that cannot handle the pleasantness-unpleasantness dimension of soundscapes.

In the second part of research, a psychometrically robust tool was developed: the Children's Psychological Restoration Scale (CPRS). The CPRS measures school children's opportunities for psychological restoration in the home environment. The CPRS was included in the core questionnaire study of the RANCH project. It was found that children "high" in psychological restoration reported systematically less aircraft and road-traffic noise annoyance both at school and at home. Children "low" in psychological restoration did not show such distinct effects on annoyance. The CPRS findings support the hypothesis that psychological restoration (based on a "restorative" home environment) would avert attention from environmental stressors (e.g., noise), or conversely direct attention to "restorative" qualities of the environment. Thus, psychological restoration in the home environment may protect against adverse noise reactions by promoting children's well being.

In the third part of research, a health evaluation model for children was developed and tested at a pan-European level, in order to identify potential harmful and protective influences on children's health and development. This model included assessing children's opportunities for psychological restoration when living in noise dominated soundscapes. The psychological restoration questionnaire was part of the airport field studies and the Swedish road traffic noise study. It was found that children's psychological restoration combined with adult social support may serve as protective factors for reducing children's self-reported annoyance at school and at home as well as their sleep disturbance associated with road traffic.

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Department of Psychology, Gosta Ekman Laboratory for Sensory Research, Frescati Hagvag 9
106 91 Stockhom
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