Standing on the shoulders of giants

12.13.2011 | HMMH |

by Nick Miller

Ted Schultz was one of my early mentors when I began my career in noise and acoustics.  When I first joined Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. he was consulting to HUD, providing technical background for its noise abatement standards.  Throughout that impressive and detailed work, he considered annoyance as one of the important reactions to noise and, I believe, collected and analyzed social surveys relating annoyance to sound levels.  As a further outcome, in 1978, Ted published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, his “Synthesis of social surveys on noise annoyance,” (see also my blog of April 2010 ).  This article provided in its Figure 6 a curve giving percent of people highly annoyed as a function of noise exposure in terms of day-night average sound level.  This curve became associated with much of present federal policy for determining noise “impact” and is commonly called the Schultz curve.

For the past few years, there has been general concern that this curve may no longer accurately represent how people respond to aircraft noise.  Because Federal Aviation Administration noise policy is required by legislation to use a system of noise measurement that has “… a highly reliable relationship between projected noise exposure and surveyed reactions of individuals to noise….” (49 U.S.C Section 47502) it is important that the relationship of annoyance and noise exposure be reliable and reflects current conditions.

The Airport Cooperative Research Program is sponsoring research to design a new national survey of annoyance reactions and sleep disturbance caused by aircraft noise.  One objective is to develop an up-to-date, unbiased estimate of the annoyance / noise exposure relationship for US airports and surrounding communities – potentially an update of the Schultz curve.

We were fortunate enough to put together a team and a winning proposal to conduct this research.  Now, I must say that I knew Ted Schultz, Ted Schultz was a friend of mine, and I’m certainly no Ted Schultz, but I am nevertheless honored to be leading this team in work that is a direct follow-on to Ted’s impressive  accomplishment.