Shhh…What’s that sound?

If you close your eyes right now, what do you hear?

Maybe you hear phones ringing, snippets of colleagues’ conversations, the clacking of keyboards. If you’re not hermetically sealed in an office building, you may also hear road traffic, aircraft, and pedestrian noise.

If you work remotely, you might hear a refrigerator’s hum, your cat meowing, or – if you’re lucky – birds chirping outside. If my home office windows are open, I hear the constant HVAC hum from the nearby hospital, cars on our busy street, the occasional train, and often the sounds of a neighbor’s home renovation.

The fact is we are all drawn to cities at one time or another. And cities are very noisy. Travelers are bombarded with sounds, often retreating to a train’s “quiet car” for peace, or enjoying the “tranquil hours” posted on a hotel floor. As populations swell and human well-being is considered, the concept of quieter cities is under review.

Constant noise – defined as unwanted sound – can affect our health over time, contributing to high blood pressure, poor sleep, digestive issues, and of course hearing loss. It can make people feel tense and, in some cases, act aggressively.

So, which are the five noisiest cities in the world? Which are the quietest?

According to a collection of studies and data on hearing and noise pollution, the noisiest city is Guangzhou, China, followed by Delhi, Cairo, Mumbai, and Istanbul. The quietist city is Zurich, followed by Vienna, Oslo, Munich, and Stockholm.

Find out how your city stacks up in the Mimi World Hearing Index, and read a fuller report on the findings from the World Economic Forum.

More interesting writing about addressing noise in cities can be found in these articles:

The Science of Quieter Cities

The Future Will be Quiet 

Quieter Cities of the Future

Enjoy these thought-provoking pieces… maybe while grabbing a quiet respite far from the madding crowd.

by Ellen Harris, GMS, International Product Director