Environmental noise can affect your health

Middle-aged man annoyed or in pain with his hands over his ears and his eyes shut.Noise in the environment can be a risk to the health of people and communities. It can be defined as unwanted or undesirable sound and can affect an individual or a community’s health, well-being and enjoyment of their surroundings.

Prolonged exposure to high levels of noise in workplaces can damage hearing. Measures need to be taken to reduce noise and to protect the hearing of exposed people. WorkSafe NZ is responsible for occupational noise risks (formerly known as the Department of Labour).

Adverse effects of environmental noise include interference with speech communication, disturbance of rest and sleep, psycho-physiological, mental health and performance, effects on residential behaviour and annoyance, and interference with activities.

Community and Public Health does not undertake noise control activities and has no legal powers to control noise. However they are required by the Ministry of Health to liaise with councils about the establishment of policies and local noise limits for activities in land use zones.

Organisations who are responsible for environmental noise

Environmental noise is the responsibility of everyone who might emit noise. Councils regulate noise under the Resource Management Act 1991. City and District Councils are responsible for noise on land, and the Regional Councils for noise in the coastal marine area.

Other special legislation regulates dog barking, aircraft noise, and road vehicle noise. Noise on the road is the responsibility of the NZ Police.

Community and Public Health will highlight potential noise issues in submissions on resource consents where the health of people and communities may be affected. This might arise through the location of a proposed activity with inadequate separation from noise-sensitive activities, where provisions of New Zealand Noise Standards may be inappropriately applied or, proposed noise limits are inconsistent with recommended upper limits. The applicant is then responsible to addressing these issues.

Community and Public Health has access to the specialist acoustics advisor from the Ministry’s Environmental Noise Analysis and Advice Service.

Alarming youth hearing loss rates sparks call for parents to intervene

National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing media release: 2nd October 2019

Parents are being urged to intervene and limit their children’s use of personal devices – or risk them losing their hearing. This follows the alarming results of a pilot youth hearing loss screening programme from the National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NFDHH).

The screening pilot was launched earlier this year to determine the potential risk of non-occupational noise-induced hearing loss in New Zealand adolescents.

Initial findings from three Auckland high schools reveals as many as one in three year 9 pupils – 34 percent – were found to have abnormal hearing. More than 40 percent of those with normal hearing in the Listen Up Screening Pilot experienced ringing in their ears – a possible precursor to tinnitus.

“This really is becoming a public health issue, and as a nation we need to address youth hearing loss immediately,” says Natasha Gallardo – chief executive of the National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NFDHH).

“Once you lose your hearing, you cannot get it back. Yet the propensity for teenagers to put their hearing at risk is truly frightening. Parents, caregivers, teachers, employers – we all have to take urgent steps to help young people see the harm they might be doing.”


Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


Contact your local CPH office for further information:

Ph: +64 3 364 1777
Fax: +64 3 379 6125

Ph: +64 3 687 2600
Fax: +64 3 688 6091

Ph: +64 3 768 1160
Fax: +64 3 768 1169

For more information on occupational noise, contact:

0800 030 040

Page last updated: 29/10/2019

Copyright © 2019, Community & Public Health,