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.

Te Mana Ora | 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.

Te Mana Ora | 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
  • where proposed noise limits are inconsistent with recommended upper limits.

The resource consent applicant is then responsible for addressing these issues.


Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


Contact your local office for further information:

Ph: +64 3 364 1777

Ph: +64 3 687 2600

Ph: +64 3 768 1160

For more information on occupational noise, contact:

0800 030 040

Hearing loss is on the rise. 1.5 billion people worldwide were affected in 2019 and this is predicted to rise to 2.5 billion in 2050. Countries must act now to provide access to ear and hearing care for all. Source: World Health Organisation.

Release of the World Report on Hearing

The World Health Organisation published the first World Report on Hearing in 2021. The report aims to provide evidence-based guidance to drive policy actions for integration of ear and hearing care into national health policies – as part of universal health coverage.

The key messages from the WHO on hearing for the public are:

  • Good hearing and communication are important at all stages of life.
  • Hearing loss (and related ear diseases) can be avoided through preventative actions such as protection against loud sounds, good ear care practices and immunisation.
  • Hearing loss (and related ear diseases) can be addressed when it is identified in a timely manner and appropriate care sought.
  • People at risk of hearing loss should check their hearing regularly.
  • People having hearing loss (or related ear diseases) should seek care from a health care provider.

Page last updated: 11/04/2024

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