In 2020, more persons living in the direct vicinity of Dutch airports experienced annoyance from aircraft noise than in 2002. In other words, there was an increase in the number of persons who indicated that they were highly annoyed or highly sleep disturbed at a certain noise level. This is the outcome of a study conducted by RIVM. The study was commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management due to increasing interest in the effects of aircraft noise on people living in the direct vicinity of airports. RIVM recommends repeating this study at regular intervals.

Study from 2002 repeated and expanded

In conducting this study, RIVM looked at the average yearly noise exposure (in decibels) calculated by the Netherlands Aerospace Centre at thousands of points on a grid around Dutch airports. RIVM compared the noise exposure to the annoyance reported by survey participants. The result of the comparison gives the relationship between the annoyance experienced by residents and exposure at a given noise level, known as the exposure–response relationship. The study from 2002 had only looked at noise annoyance experienced by residents around Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. 

That same study has now been repeated with new data collected in 2020. In addition, its scope was expanded to include 14 airports: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Groningen Airport Eelde, Rotterdam The Hague Airport, Lelystad Airport, Eindhoven Airport, Maastricht Aachen Airport and eight military airports. The findings of the study show that, for nearly all airports, the annoyance experienced in 2020 is higher than what would be expected based on the 2002 exposure-response relationship for Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. It was also found that the perceived noise annoyance differed from one airport to another, even when noise levels were identical. 

Reasons for differences between airports not investigated in current study

Due to the design of the study, RIVM was unable to investigate the reasons for the differences between airports in noise annoyance. This was because, in this study, RIVM relied on data from the 2020 Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) Health Monitor. This survey asked the residents only about the severity of annoyance and sleep disturbance due to aircraft noise. It did not include questions about circumstances that could affect perceptions of annoyance, such as an individual’s attitude towards the airport or their personal sensitivity to noise. 

The COVID-19 pandemic may also have influenced the observed annoyance. According to the Municipal Public Health Service Health Monitor, higher annoyance was reported in 2020 than in 2016, even though there were fewer flights in 2020. This might be because, in 2020, people worked from home more often than in 2016 and therefore also heard aircraft noise more often.

Degree of annoyance needs to be frequently studied 

This study was carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management as part of the Programmatic Approach to Measuring Aircraft Noise. RIVM recommends conducting regular studies into noise annoyance around airports. This will yield better insight into how the noise and annoyance develop over time and into the potential differences between airports.