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Low frequency noise and human response

The research unit has carried out research into human response and adverse effects of low frequency noise for many years starting already in 1985, and was responsible for the scientific basis of the limits for low frequency community noise indoors (SOSFS 1996:7 revised 2005:6) and also in the occupational environment AFS 2005:16) in Sweden. Low frequencies lack an internationally established definition but usually indicates the frequency range of 20 to 200Hz. In nature, frequencies below 200Hz are signals of thunder, volcano eruptions, earthquakes or storms - events that are likely to induce arousal or fear. In the urban soundscape, low frequencies may origin from amplified music, transportation, or ventilation/compressor units. Our hearing in the low frequency range is, compared to the higher frequencies, less sensitive and that has, for many years, led to the misconception that low frequency sounds are also less annoying. Today it is known that low frequency noise has a great annoyance potential, and that some people seem to react adversely even to levels just above their hearing threshold. Factors inherent in most low frequency noise such as the throbbing characteristics, the intrusion of low frequencies felt when other frequencies in the sound are attenuated, and the vibrations sensations sometimes felt contributes probably to annoyance. The risk for adverse effects are of particular concern because of its general presence due to numerous sources, an efficient propagation of the noise from the source and poor attenuation efficiency of building structures. The importance of low frequency noise has been acknowledged in the World Health Organization document on community noise, which state that “health effects due to low frequency components in noise are estimated to be more severe than for community noise in general” and that “special attention should be given to sources with low frequency components”.
Our research focussed initially on annoyance and subjective effects of low frequency noise. Later we explored sleep disturbances of low frequency noise and also more in depth how work performance was affected. The latest studies were performed at the department of Acoustics in Aalborg Denmark, with the aim to explore perception and hearing of very low levels of low frequency noise.


Persson Waye K. Effects of low frequency noise and vibrations: Environmental and occupational perspectives. In: Nriagu JO (ed.) Encyclopedia of Environmental Health, volume 2, pp. 240–253 Burlington: Elsevier 2011.
Pedersen Sejer C, Møller H and Persson Waye K.
A detailed study of low frequency noise complaints. J Low Freq Noise Vibr and Active Control 2008, 27, 1-33.
Agge A, Bengtsson Ryberg J, Björkman M. Effekter av lågfrekvent buller i industrimiljö - en interventionsstudie vid Södra Cell, Värö. Rapport från Arbets- och miljömedicin, Sahlgrenska akademin, Göteborgs universitet, februari 2008, nr 116. ISBN 978-91-7876-115-9.
Pedersen S, Møller H and Persson Waye K. Indoor measurements of noise at low frequencies- problems and solutions. J Low Freq Noise Vibr and Active Control 2007,26, 249-270.
Bengtsson Ryberg J, Agge A and Persson Waye K.
Low frequency noise in a paper mill control room. J Low Freq Noise Vibr and Active Control 2007, 26, 165-176.
Persson Waye K.
Adverse effects of moderate levels of low frequency noise in the occupational environment. ASHRAE Transactions 2005, vol 111, 672-683.
Persson Waye K.
Effect of low frequency noise on sleep. Noise and Health 2004, 6;23:87-91.
Persson Waye K, Agge A, Clow A and Hucklebridge F.
Cortisol response and subjective sleep disturbance after low-frequency noise exposure. J Sound Vib 2004, 277, 453-457.
Bengtsson J, Persson Waye K and Kjellberg A.
Evaluations of effects due to low-frequency noise in a low demanding work situation. J Sound Vib 2004, 278:83-99.
Bengtsson J, Persson Waye K and Kjellberg A.
Sound characteristics in low frequency noise and their relevance for the perception of pleasantness. Acta Acoustica United with Acustica 2004, 90:171-180.
Bengtsson J and Persson Waye K. Assessments of low frequency noise complaints among the local Environmental Health Authorities and a follow-up study 14 years later. J of Low Freq Noise Vibr and Active Control 2003, 22:9-16.
Persson Waye K, Bengtsson J, Agge A and Björkman M.
A descriptive cross-sectional study of annoyance from low frequency installations in an urban environment. Noise and Health 2003, 5; 20, 35-46.
Persson Waye K, Clow A, Edwards S, Hucklebridge F and Rylander R. Effects of night-time low frequency noise on the cortisol response to awakening and subjective sleep quality. Life Sciences 2003, 72:863-875.
Persson Waye K, Bengtsson J, Rylander R, Hucklebridge F, Evans P and Clow A. Low frequency noise enhances cortisol among noise sensitive subjects during work performance. Life Sciences 2002, 70:745-758.
Landström U, Johansson Ö, Hygge S, Kjellberg A, Arlinger S och Persson Waye K.
Vetenskapligt underlag för bedömning av störande buller i arbetslivet. Kriteriedokument, Scientific basis for evaluation of noise disturbance in the occupational environment. Criteria documentation (In Swedish). Arbetslivsinstitutet, Maj 2001.
Persson Waye K and Rylander R.
The prevalence of annoyance and effects after long term exposure to low frequency noise. J Sound Vib 2001, 240:483-497.
Persson Waye K, Bengtsson J, Kjellberg A and Benton S.
Low frequency noise pollution interferes with work performance. Noise and Health 2001, 4:33-49.

Current projects

Quick links to ongoing and recently finished Projects:

EpiVib - living by a railway


Preschool cohort


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Page Manager: Ann-Sofie Liljenskog Hill|Last update: 8/16/2013

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