“It just hit me like a sledgehammer”: impact of indoor noise on the lifestyle choices of older adults

A. Hogden, A. Short, H. Rajendran, David Greenfield

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Objectives: Healthy lifestyle choices through community participation are associated with increased wellbeing and chronic disease prevention in older adults. Barriers to participation include the negative effects of indoor noise in community settings. This study examined how noise impacts the lifestyle choices and avoidance behaviours of older adults.

Methods: An explanatory mixed method study was conducted in two phases in 2014. Older adults were recruited from an independent living community. First, 50 participants completed a survey including questions from: the validated Noise Sensitivity Scale (3-NS); Noise Sensitivity Questionnaire (NoiSeQ); and items relating to indoor noise in community locations. Second, 20 participants took part in four focus groups which were audio recorded and transcribed. Questions covered participants’ experience of indoor auditory environments, perceptions of the effects of these environments on health, and suggestions for improving indoor auditory environments. Survey data was analysed using descriptive statistics, and interview data was analysed thematically for emerging themes that represented participants’ experiences.

Results: Results indicated that the majority of participants (76%) had a high sensitivity to noise. Most respondents (88%) scored high on statements about the impact of noise on their life. Demographic information indicated that almost half of participants (46%) wore hearing aids, and suggested that older adults with hearing impairment or hearing aids were significantly more noise sensitive than older adults without hearing impairment. Participants indicated that shopping centres, food courts and clubs were the noisiest indoor locations in the community. Older adults described their experience of indoor noise in the
community and their lifestyle responses in terms of 1) ‘noise’ versus ‘music’; 2) acceptance of sound; and 3) coping strategies. Factors affecting the perception of sound as noise included the qualities of the sound, the current health of the listener, familiarity of the sound, and the perceived necessity of the sound. Older
adults employed a range of avoidance and coping strategies related to noisy locations in the community, including adjustment of hearing aids, online shopping, shopping at certain times of day and planning shopping trips to be well before the busy holiday season. Few participants reported cancelling activities due to noise, however many had elaborate coping strategies to address the effect of indoor community noise on their health and lifestyle.

Conclusion: Older adults are highly sensitive to indoor noise found in environments where they pursue lifestyle activities, such as community shopping centres. In order to maintain an active lifestyle, older adults demonstrate a range of avoidance and coping strategies. Although building standards exist for indoor noise, if healthy lifestyle choices are to be encouraged, greater engagement with consumers to determine their needs is necessary. Our findings have implications for environmental noise policies and marketing strategies employed by community providers to better cater for the older adult population. With the aging of the population it is an increasing critical issue that has individual emotional/ psychological and social impacts, as well as economic consequences for the community.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event32nd International Safety and Quality Conference: : Building quality and safety into the healthcare system - Doha, Qatar
Duration: 4 Oct 20157 Oct 2015


Conference32nd International Safety and Quality Conference:
Abbreviated titleISQua 2015


  • aged care
  • barriers
  • quality of life


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