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The Effects of Noise on Performance

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Final rept.

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The effects of noise on task performance are quite complex, and not as predictable as other noise effects. They are often affected by non-acoustical factors, such as biological and psychological state, as well as external factors such as task complexity and the presence of other stressors. This report describes the rationale and some of the problems inherent in noise and performance research, as well as theories on the mechanisms of effects, and summarizes the various effects. Research on noise and vision suggests some effects from high noise levels on thresholds of sensitivity, critical flicker fusion, and visual field shifts. Small but reliable effects have been demonstrated on vestibular function, expecially with asymmetric exposures. Motor performance usually adapts with repeated or prolonged exposure, but high noise levels can show persistend decrements. Some startle responses, notably the eye- blink response, do not habituate. With respect to task variables, noise has little effect on simple tasks, and can even improve performance on monotonous tasks. Tasks requiring continuous performance may be disrupted, especially by noise levels over 100 dB and if the job requires a high level of sustained performance. Intellectual function is not usually affected, but vigilance tasks are susceptible to noise, particularly under certain conditions. Complex tasks requiring more than one activity are much more likely to be disrupted than simple tasks. Noise can sometimes produce significant aftereffects, one of the most common being a reduced tolerance for frustration. It also appears that noise can increase anxiety levels and the risk of hostile behavior, while decreasing the incidence of helpful behavior. sdw

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  • Acoustics
  • Environmental Health and Safety

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