The National Academies

ACRP 02-26 [Final]

Assessing Aircraft Noise Conditions Affecting Student Learning

  Project Data
Funds: $450,000
Research Agency: Wyle Laboratories, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Ben Sharp
Effective Date: 6/28/2010
Completion Date: 11/30/2013


Concerns over the effects of noise on student learning present potential barriers to airport operations and expansion and can contribute to delays in both facility and capacity improvements. As is evident from numerous studies, there is a considerable body of research demonstrating that chronic exposure to noise is associated with learning deficits in children (see citations in Special Note A). For example, a recent study prepared for the European Union suggests that a 5 dB-increase in noise exposure translates to a 2-month delay in reading scores (the “RANCH” Study—"Road Traffic and Aircraft Noise Exposure and Children's Cognition and Health: Exposure-Effect Relationships and Combined Effects"). Furthermore, a pilot study for the Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise (FICAN) found that low-performing students’ test scores were more likely to improve after their schools were insulated against aircraft noise. Although an important summary of existing literature is available in the recently released ACRP Synthesis 9: Effects of Aircraft Noise: Research Update on Selected Topics, additional studies directed specifically to aircraft noise impact are needed. In particular, a remaining question is the level of aircraft noise at which learning impacts occur. In FY07, the FAA awarded $56.5 million in grants to insulate public buildings—mostly schools—often based on a criterion of achieving a maximum Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) of 65 dB. Despite this history, there has been little research to date as to whether this criterion is appropriate for determining when noise levels impact schools and learning. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Science and Metrics Standing Committee of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) has proposed metrics to the EWG Policy Standing Committee for consideration in their preparation of the EWG environmental targets.   What is evident from available studies is that there is no clear understanding of the conditions as to when aircraft noise affects student learning and when to implement mitigation measures. Research is needed to enhance that understanding.


The objectives of this study were (1) to identify and evaluate conditions under which aircraft noise affects student learning, and (2) to identify and evaluate one or more alternative noise metrics that best define those conditions.

STATUS: The final report has been published as ACRP Web Only Document 16.

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