Investigation reveals the extent of noise pollution in Thanet
LONG-SUFFERING Steve Higgins says living on the flight path for Manston airport is so loud it hurts.
Using a sound level measure, the Isle of Thanet Gazette recorded noise levels of 70 to 80 decibels (dB) from the village of Manston during takeoffs but Mr Higgins said it can top 100dB.
He said: "It makes the windows rattle and shake – it's very difficult not to hear it. When you're in the garden it's actually painful. You have to put your hands over your ears."
The flight sounds we recorded compare with those of a screeching seagull from 10 metres (75dB), the office fire alarm in the Isle of Thanet Gazette's newsroom (86 DB) and the noise of a passing motorbike (90dB).
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Mr Higgins said: "When it's a measurement on paper it's difficult to put it together.
"The sound of a very loud motorbike, though it might read as the same decibels – a motorbike you don't hear it coming 30 seconds away and 30 seconds after it's gone.
"A motorbike, you can't hear when it puts on the reverse thrusters and makes a deep groan as it goes over Ramsgate."
The Aircraft Noise Index Study concluded in 1987 that 57db was the level at which aircraft noise became a nuisance.
Elsewhere on the isle, the noise levels in Margate library (65 to 70dB) were, surprisingly, close to those of a bus and general traffic from the pavement (68 to 75dB) – so not much hope for people looking for a bit of quiet study.
The sound of the sea is famously soothing. Waves breaking on Margate Main Sands registered at 82 to 90dB.
Jason Dors-Lake, who lives in Eagle House on Viking Bay beach said: "There was one time when the waves were crashing against the wall – that was slightly troubling. But basically it's quite soothing. I like when it's soothing and even when it's stormy."
Mr Dors-Lake is less keen, however, on the leaf blowers once used on the beach by council workers.
"It used to wake me up when they were doing it at 8am, blowing the sand off the boardwalk," he added.
The sound of a crying or shouting child was measured at about 80dB.
Fiona Crawford of Helter Skelter Children's Play Centre in Broadstairs, said: "A lot of people say 'how can you stand the noise?' We don't mind. We don't notice.
"It can get noisy – but the children are having a good time."
Golfers often escape the hurly-burly with a round on NorthForeland's serene course in Broadstairs.
The sound level meter registered 55 to 60dB on the course.
Surveys have shown that about half of the UK population live in areas where daytime sound levels exceed those recommended on the World Health Organisation's guidelines for community noise.
But the physiological effects of noise are complex and hard to measure.
A recent report on environmental noise in the UK by the Health Protection Agency's Ad Hoc Expert Group on Noise and Health found several links.
Chairman of the group Dr Robert Maynard said: "There is increasing evidence that environmental noise, from both aircraft and road traffic, is associated with raised blood pressure and with a small increase in the risk of coronary heart disease.
"Evidence that environmental noise damages mental health is, on the other hand, inconclusive."
Thanet council's policy on noise nuisances, as published online: "We receive complaints about noise, ranging from barking dogs to loud music, burglar alarms going off to noise from building sites.
"If we find a problem we will try to sort it out on a friendly and informal basis, but if this does not work we have legal powers to deal with the noise."