Chinese Cities Named World's Noisiest. Here's How City Dwellers Respond

By Edoardo Donati Fogliazza, June 6, 2019

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Drivers lined up on the busy streets honking furiously, the pesky song of a sanlunche going in reverse gear, the calls of the street food sellers and a dama screaming at the top of her lungs to call a friend on the other side of the street. 

If you live in China, you have probably seen (well, heard) this scenario play out time and time again. Life in a Chinese city can be exciting and rewarding – but it’s certainly not quiet. City residents in the PRC have certainly noticed and decided to invest their rising salaries in acoustic insulation, making it one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. 

A recent industry survey redacted by the independent market research firm Freedonia found the demand for acoustic insulation in China to have soared to USD1.5 billion in 2018, making it the second largest national market in the world in value behind the US and destined to grow exponentially in coming years. 

These recent findings don’t come as a surprise: Chinese cities have been found to be not just ‘buzzing,’ but downright some of the loudest in the world. In 2017, Guangzhou topped the list of the Worldwide Hearing Index redacted by Mimi Hearing Technologies, followed by Beijing in sixth place. And the dangers of living in such decibel-filled cities do not just encompass mood swings and lack of sleep: Scientific reports have linked noise pollution to depression and anxiety, and the World Health Organization (WHO) believes it has the potential to “harm human health and interfere with people’s daily activities.” 

READ MORE: ‘Honking Detectors’ Now Being Piloted on Key Beijing Roadways

The Chinese government took note and updated their regulations on noise pollution in 2018, after environmental authorities had been reporting that a quarter of China’s cities suffered from extremely high levels of environmental noise. Meanwhile, Chinese citizens are spending more than ever on acoustically-insulated living spaces, which are one of the driving forces behind the market, as noticed in the Freedonia report. 

The WHO guidelines mark 85 decibels to be the threshold for safe exposure to sound, though the national acoustic environment standards set it at 70 decibels during the day and 55 decibels at night for noise-sensitive environments, such as schools and hospitals. For comparison, a jackhammer like the ones that dot the construction sites of Chinese cities measures at around 100 decibels. How loud can the average dama scream? We don’t know, but given the market trends, China’s city dwellers are not expecting things to quiet down anytime soon.

READ MORE: Noise Pollution in Chinese Cities May Lead to Hearing Loss, Study Finds

[Cover image via Shiyang Huang/Flickr]

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