Sound & the Healthy City (2018-on)

As Lead Editor I am working on a special issue of the Cities & Health Journal published by Routledge, along with a great team of amazing scholars!

The special issue is called Sound and the Healthy City.

Below is the call for contributions, also available on the official webpage of the Cities & Health Journal.

Full Instructions for Authors can be found on the Cities & Health website.


Image courtesy of Marcus Grant.

The United Nations estimates that 55 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities. Projections reveal a rise of 60 percent by 2030, whereby one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants. Cities and human health are interconnected and, unfortunately, urban population growth is having a detrimental effect on mental, physical, and social health, as well as on aspects of social and environmental justice.

Although noise pollution is the second most common environmental stressor (after air pollution) that affects our health, well-being, and quality of life, the negative impacts of noise are often overlooked in policy and practice. For instance, noise is not directly addressed by the otherwise comprehensive UN Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, noise from road traffic affects over 125 million people in Europe every year, causing health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance, hypertension and annoyance, potentially leading to premature death. The detrimental effects of noise on human health also incur a high cost to society when the global cost of hearing loss and related interventions is estimated to be between 750 and 790 billion international dollars. Thus, taking action against noise pollution is imperative.

The 2002 Environmental Noise Directive was adopted with the aim of establishing a common approach to avoid, prevent, and reduce noise pollution among the Member States based upon quantitative measurements, such as “noise indicators,” “noise maps,” and “action plans”. Furthermore, a scan of interdisciplinary bodies of literature highlights that the majority of approaches developed to address this issue are also based on quantitative indicators (e.g., acoustical indices) and that a typical strategy is to apply anti-noise mechanisms to noise sources. However, a number of soundscape studies have argued that quantitative methods only partially address the complex nature of noise pollution. Noise and sound can indeed be ambivalent concepts because they are simultaneously objective and subjective in nature. To address their subjective characteristics, effective implementation demands the integration of qualitative approaches, similar to the soundscape approach, as suggested by the European Environment Agency.

According to the soundscape approach, in the same way that health cannot be defined as “merely the absence of disease” – a phrase taken from the 1948 constitution of the World Health Organization – the mere absence of noise is not sufficient to ensure a good sonic environment for our physical and mental health, and social well-being. Indeed, for most people sound is fundamental to living in the world, complementing our other senses. Most commonly, we communicate and orientate ourselves through sound, and are moved emotionally, both consciously and unconsciously, by sound. The soundscape approach proposes a shift in mindset that requires not only the study of the negative effects of noise pollution but also the investigation of the positive effects of the sonic environment on people’s health and quality of life. This is in accordance with the definition of soundscape as an “acoustic environment as perceived, experienced, and/or understood by people, in context”, provided by the inherited ISO norm. Therefore, for healthy place-making to occur, people ought to be at the heart of the process, participating in analyzing, evaluating and planning the soundscapes of the urban fabric.

While the number of studies addressing concepts like urban quietness, tranquility, and restoration has been increasing in recent years, scholarships mainly focus on investigating the negative effects of noise. This has created a gap in literature concerning the positive effects of the sonic environment on human mental and physical health, social well-being, and on how to create optimal soundscapes. To this end, the aim of this special issue is to help fill this gap by calling for original contributions that address the topic of city sounds and health from either or both the anti-noise and soundscape perspectives. Trans-disciplinary and trans-sectorial contributions might revolve around, but are not limited to, the following themes and open questions.

Public spaces, private/public spaces (such as malls, hotel halls, and plazas) and the built environment:

  • How can soundscapes in public spaces be designed to favor a sense of community?
  • What kind of indicators, beyond noise indices, can be applied to measure (both qualitatively and quantitatively) and identify good sonic environments for our health?
  • What urban design projects have been developed that explicitly address good sonic quality in the city?

Streetscapes, walkability, and new forms of mobility:

  • Is there evidence of positive impact of new form of mobility on the sonic quality of streetscapes, beyond the rhetoric of e-mobility?
  • How and to what extent has the spread of the walkability movement positively impact on the sonic quality of streetscapes?
  • What innovative materials could or should be developed and applied to mitigate the detrimental effects of noise pollution and achieve a good sonic environment for our health?

New technology:

  • What kind of new technologies (e.g. mobile apps, internet of things, big data analytics, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, smart sensors and alike) have been developed or should be developed to positively impact on the sonic environment? How can such technologies be integrated to create new experience or near reality experience?
  • Is there evidence of the positive impacts made by new technology on the reduction of noise pollution? How technologies can help balance the positive and negative impacts of sound? Can technologies help soundscape designers engage the community and the stakeholders? What are the technological needs of the next generation soundscape designers?

Urban commons, innovative policies, and form of governance:

  • What evidence do policy makers need to integrate soundscape-based strategies and actions into healthy city planning and policy-making processes?
  • If we assume that a good sonic environment needs to be a curated common in our society, how can different interest groups be involved in its planning and management alongside government bodies? To what kind of new form of governance can we test and recommend?

Placemaking and inclusion:

  • How and to what extent does noise pollution influence the psychological constrict of sense of place, and how might this impact the social well-being of different communities?
  • To what extent does noise pollution affect the health of children, elderly individuals, and other special populations or minority groups? What kind of tailored strategies have or can be developed to foster their enjoyment of city living?

The ecology of urban soundscapes:

  • How healthy soundscapes correlate with biodiversity in an urban environment?
  • Is biodiversity actually quiet? If not, can it be considered noisy?

We hope that this special issue will bolster the interest of academics, artists, practitioners, city makers, and other officials in its communication that noise has to be considered a healthy issue and the sonic urban environment needs to be a curated common in our society – a cultural and natural resource accessible to all and co-governed by its user community.


Soundscape, noise, quiet areas, healthy city, placemaking, open spaces, new technology


  • “Urban noise levels are high enough to damage auditory sensorineural health”  by Jan L. Mayes, first published online on February 18th, 2019.
  • “Combined soundwalks and lightwalks” by Dietrich Henckel, first published online on March 11th, 2019.
  • “Soundscape and its contribution to health in the city” by  Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp, first published online on March 14th, 2019.
  • “Supporting healthier urban environments with a sound and noise curriculum for students” by Arline Bronzaft, first published online on March 21st, 2019.
  • “Acoustic sustainability in urban design: lessons from the World Soundscape Project” by Barry Truax, first published online on March 21st, 2019.
  • “Flying, health and the city: sensing aeromobility and risk in an informal settlement” by Brandley Rink and Lwando Klaas, first published online on April 26th, 2019.
  • “A London municipality’s electric refuse collection vehicle – ‘The eRCV project” by Helen Steiger, first published online on April 29th, 2019.
  • “Ecological connectivity of urban quiet areas: the case of Mytilene, Greece” by Aggelos Tsaligopoulos, Aimilia Karapostoli, Antonella Radicchi, Chris Economou, Stella Kyvelou & Yiannis G. Matsinos, first published online on May 17th, 2019.
  • “Tranquil City: identifying opportunities for urban tranquillity to promote healthy lifestyles” by Grant Waters, Ben Warren, Eleanor Ratcliffe & Julie Godefroy, first published online on June 5th, 2019.
  • “Developing sound-aware cities: a model for implementing sound quality objectives within urban design and planning processes” by Trond Maag, Andres Bosshard & Sven Anderson, first published online on June 13th, 2019.
  • “Hidden geographies: design for neurodivergent ways of hearing and sensing”  by Danielle Toronyi, first published online on June 14th, 2019.
  • “Right to party versus right to quietness? Mitigating noise conflicts of free open air events in Berlin” by Charlotte Weber, Abdelrahman Helal, Annika Lesem, Lena Maaß, Esther Schwedler, Anton Wohldorf & Julius Würbach, first published online on June 26th, 2019.
  • “Marketing sonic thinking with creative visualization: getting decision-makers to listen” by Christopher Williams and Charlie Morrow, first published online on July 1st, 2019.
  • “Mobile crowd-sensing as a resource for contextualized urban public policies: a study using three use cases on noise and soundscape monitoring” by Bruno Lefevre, Rachit Agarwal, Valerie Issarny & Vivien Mallet, first published online on July 18th, 2019.
  • “Adaptive soundscape design for liveable urban spaces: a hybrid methodology across environmental acoustics and sonic art” by Mattia Cobianchi, John Drever and Lisa Lavia, first published online on July 19th, 2019.

Editorial information:

  • Co-Editors (in alphabetical order): Pınar Çevikayak Yelmi, Işık University, Istanbul (pinarcevikayak@gmail.com), Andy Chung, Macau Instituto de Acústica, Macau (andy@moiacoustics.org), Pamela Jordan, University of Amsterdam (pam.f.jordan@gmail.com), Sharon Stewart, Mixes from the Field (sharonstewart@handsonpiano.nl), Aggelos Tsaligopoulos, University of the Aegean, Mytilene (tsaligopoulos@env.aegean.gr).
  • Editor-in-chief of Cities and Health: Marcus Grant (marcusxgrant@citieshealth.world)
  • Commissioning Editor of Cities and Health: Lindsay McCunn, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC (lindsay.mccunn@viu.ca)
  • Advisory Board (in alphabetical order): Arline Bronzaft, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of the City University of New York, New York; Peter Lercher, Ph.D., Professor of the University of Graz, Graz; Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp, Ph.D., Professor of the Technical University of Berlin, Berlin; Barry Truax, Professor Emeritus of the Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
  • Special issue partners (in alphabetical order): ALD, the working group on noise of the Acoustical Society of Germany; the Health Environment Institute of Berlin; The Quiet Coalition.