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Matt Rosenberg

Noisiest Country?

By February 25, 2012

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Noise!After nearly fifteen years of running this website, I thought I'd received every possible question imaginable. However, a Peace Corps volunteer recently wrote to ask which countries are the world's noisiest. (Apparently the country that this volunteer is stationed in seems especially noisy.) I was gobsmacked! How could I never have received nor thought about this question before?!

Statistics on average national noise do not seem to be readily available. There have been recent studies which discuss the health and psychological impacts of noise. One report, Burden of disease from environmental noise - Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe published by the World Health Organization last year reports gravely, "at least one million healthy life years are lost every year from traffic-related noise in the western part of Europe." However, that report doesn't tell us whether European countries are noisier than countries in Latin America, Asia, or anywhere else in the world. I did locate one article that claims Spain is the noisiest country in the European Union. Another source claims that Spain is second in the world with Japan as number one.

Then, I found another article which claims that the United States is the noisiest country but in browsing the related report, I couldn't find evidence of an international study. Also, someone claims that within the U.S., San Francisco is the loudest city.

Due to the variability in measuring how "loud" a country is, I doubt we'll really be able to compare some place to another anytime soon. If you have thoughts on these matters, I'd love to hear them in the comments below...


February 27, 2012 at 12:25 am
(1) Anu G says:

I’m just wondering how they would go about measuring the noisiest country? Would they just go to the busiest intersections and measure the number of decibels or would they use some other way?

February 27, 2012 at 12:27 am
(2) virender kumar setia says:

I have visited three countries. I feel India is the noisiest place in the world because here people are so accustomed to using horns frequently and use of loud speakers and crackers is so prevalent that it gives a feeling that people feel free to have only their own interests without any respect for privacy of others

February 27, 2012 at 5:04 am
(3) Manjunatha Igar says:

Noise can be measured by fixing a scientific instrument which measures sound in decibels at a place say one in one sq km or one in ten sq km or one in 100sq km at a 1 metre above ground level and take an average. You can elaborate my idea. Then there is two kings of noises, natural ie., sea shore sound, thunder/lightening etc and the man made, vehicle noises, airoplance sounds, industry etc..

February 27, 2012 at 5:08 am
(4) padmanabhan says:

I tend to agree with Virender Kumar. In fact, I was expecting (if data were available) that India would rank very high,if not the highest. On my first visit to U.S.A., what struck me was the absence of automobile horns even during a traffic jam. Apart from that noise from loudspeakers is very high in India (with or without police permission) especially during public elections. Though it is not a thing to be proud of, it obviously cannot be hidden.

February 27, 2012 at 7:03 am
(5) Anna Cameron says:

I live in Spain and I would agree that it is the noisiest, at least in Europe! The Spaniards talk twice as loud and nearly twice as fast as other nationalities and they don’t talk one at a time – a Spanish conversation consists of everybody having their say at the same time and at an increasing level of noise to try and be heard over the escalating ambient noise level. No wonder they always sound as though they are arguing! And then there are the fiestas, fireworks, parades, brass bands, etc etc…. And that is before you start on the everyday traffic noise.

February 27, 2012 at 7:40 am
(6) samson mworia says:

I have not been to very many cities but for the ones i have visited,i find New delhi,India to be unbearably noisy.

February 27, 2012 at 10:57 am
(7) Captain GVK unnithan says:

I was lucky enough to have traveled about few dozen countries and almost all major cities of India.I think the loudest country in the World would only be my Mother Country and the quietest is Australia. Because there are only people on the roads in India and in the latter, there are no people anywhere. In fact to find an address, in the outskirts of Perth city, Australia, we had to deliberately drive past to find some one to ask to, and re track the same road for about 10 miles ! This is on the outskirts of Perth city and not in desert. The loudest city in the world would be Chennai, the second and third being Kolkatta and Mumbai. In fact there is a saying that the song of Madras is the sound of the autorikshas !

February 27, 2012 at 1:11 pm
(8) melinda says:

Cairo, Egypt is the noisiest city I’ve ever traveled through. Every single cab driver honks while dodging cars through streets that do not designate lanes. I’ve visited over 30 countries and probably twice as many cities, and Cairo was the one that had me running to my hotel to escape the noise. I slept with earplugs and a pillow over my head at night, but still couldn’t block out the noise.

February 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm
(9) Leanne says:

I believe Spain is indeed the noisiest country since Ive heard it myself. It would actualaly blow me up if I done wear earphones from all the talkings and heaps of conversations at the same time. I couldnt really hear myself honestly :)

February 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm
(10) Micheline De Ridder says:

hello !
for sure it is India ! never visited a country ( I visited 58 countries in the world ) with such a trafic : chaotic , all kind of cycles, cars, animals, trucks, people …
And all vehicles use the horn, non stop ! crazy !
My students saw the film I made when being in this trafic : they asked me : please, stop the film, we are getting mad ! the film was taken in Delhi, Jaipur, Agra .
India is wonderful but also the hell !

February 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm
(11) Robert says:

I have worked in many countries of the world. My guess is that the levels change from year to year but the countries with a lot of honking horns would seem to be the loudest. When I worked in Saudi Arabia in the 70′s, it was difficult to sleep from the noise of the horns. Since the population was concentrated in the main cities you had a concentration of noise as well. Some of the South American Countries fit this situation as well but with less concentration.

February 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm
(12) Phil says:

Hands down, it’s the Philippines. In America, people wear earplugs when mowing the lawn because the engine is so noisy. In the Philippines, many of the motorcycles with sidecar use a lawnmower engine!

Then there’s the drunk neighbors singing on the karaokes at full volume at 2 in the morning. There is no consideration at all for the neighbors who want to read a book, relax or sleep.

February 27, 2012 at 10:17 pm
(13) Anita says:

Not the same as average level of noise, but I guess the country with the loudest single noise in history would be Indonesia, the day Krakatau erupted?

February 28, 2012 at 10:36 am
(14) Themerg says:

I don’t see a list of noisiest countries as stated in the text of the email that I got directed here by ,if I wanted to know that there isn’t a list,I COULD FIND THAT ANYWHERE

February 29, 2012 at 2:56 am
(15) Hans says:

Are we talking about the loudest a country can be or the loudest on average? I could imagine that Japan could be loudest on average because it’s a relatively small country. Spain may be loud, but when you factor in all the rural areas, is it louder on average than other places? Same with India. What’s the yardstick?

March 1, 2012 at 9:51 am
(16) Bruce Davis says:

Good question, no possible scientific answer. Unmeasurable. Highly subjective, as the comments show. City or country, on the average (as one commenter asks), or some sort of per capita measure? Every country has its noise and its placid locales, though cities are certainly more noisy than rural areas. I’ve been in meditative peaceful quiet on the ghats of Varanasi, yet 5 minutes later in the din and chaos of street traffic (human, animal, and machines). But Cairo noise, as in many US cities, reverberates in the thorax, not just the ear. It’s an interesting and noisy world, eh?

December 2, 2012 at 7:10 am
(17) Roberto says:

Spaniard here. My tinnitus can confirm that.

December 31, 2012 at 4:46 pm
(18) vicksinhaler says:

Philippines no doubt a very noisy country, im not talking about only the way people talk, it is people just making sure everyone in their village knows they own a karaoke or sound system. If they wanna watch dvd they will let you know about it.
Living across a basketball court, people go there to blast their stereo from 1am to 7am.
Sure being cheerful and stuff is good, but it is overall annoying. You can’t be cheerful all the time especially if you are trying to sleep.
If you are fine with this, like if you have a difficulty with hearing and you like cheerful people, this country is okay for you, if not, you’re better off elsewhere, because there is no law or ordinance against noise pollution no matter how flagrant.

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