Wind farms, sound and health: Community information
What sounds can people hear?
frequency range of human hearing
is typically20 Hz to 20,000 Hz or young healthy adults. However,requencies outside o this range are audible i the soundis loud enough. The ear is most sensitive to sounds in the 300–10,000 Hzrange, similar to the range o speech. We are less sensitiveto sounds outside o this range, particularly soundsbelow 20 Hz.
How is loudness measured?
Simply measuring the sound level does not tell us howloud a sound seems to the human ear, because theloudness o a sound depends not only on its level, butalso on its requency. Most sounds are a combinationo many requencies.
is a sound measurement technique which takesaccount o the requencies, as well as the levels, in thesound. It is representative o how our ears respondto noise.
Table 1: Typical dBA levels of environmental sounds
Noise sourceSound level (dBA)
Quiet bedroom20–25Rural night-time background
Wind farm(at moderate wind speed 7 m/s)35–45
55Busy general oce
Pneumatic drill at 15 m95Jet aircrat at 50 m105 Threshold o pain130
can be used or sounds where inrasound may be
which is the hearing threshold or inrasound. At this level,the inrasound will be imperceptible, even or people withsensitive hearing.
How are low frequency sounds differentfrom higher frequency sounds?
Sound levels decrease as sound waves travel away romtheir source. However, sound levels o lower requenciesdecrease less quickly than higher requencies.For example, when standing next to a road, the higherrequency sounds o the tyre against the road are mostobvious. At a large distance, the sound which remainsis the rumbling low requency noise rom the engines.It is more dicult to insulate against low requency soundthan mid and high requency sound. This explains whybass sounds are oten the main component o musicheard rom the next-door neighbour’s sound system.It also explains why low requency sound rom wind armscan seem more prominent than higher requency soundinside houses.
Inrasound is very low requency sound; it usually reersto sounds with a requency below 20 Hz. It is commonlybelieved that inrasound is inaudible. While it is true thatwe are less sensitive to sounds below 20 Hz, the humanear can perceive sounds in this range i they are at veryhigh levels.Inrasound is perceived by the ear like other requencies,so it has to be audible to be detected. However, thesensation it produces is dierent to that o higherrequencies. This has led to conusion regarding howinrasound is detected and how it aects the body.Most inrasound is accompanied by sounds at otherrequencies, so it is unusual to experience pure inrasound. There are
many sources of infrasound,
as shownin Table 2.
Table 2: Sources of infrasound
NaturalenvironmentHouseholdand industryHuman body
WavesWindWateralls Air conditioningRail tracPower plantsBreathingChewingHeart beatHead movement
Inrasound is produced by the body at higher levels thanmany external sources, including wind arms. Humanshave thereore been exposed to inrasound throughoutour evolution.
1 Based on sound level measurements taken rom multiple residentlocations near two Victorian wind arms, at distances 500–1,000 mrom the nearest turbine.