Sound & the Healthy City (2018-on)

As a Guest 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.


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, according to the following themes.

  • Public spaces, private/public spaces (such as malls, hotel halls, and plazas) and the built environment
  • Streetscapes, walkability, and new forms of mobility
  • New technology
  • Urban commons, innovative policies, and form of governance
  • Placemaking and inclusion
  • The ecology of urban soundscapes

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.
  • “Resonance – soundscapes of material and immaterial qualities of urban spaces” by Hanne Wiemann Nielsen, Gertrud Jørgensen & Ellen Marie Braae, first published on line on October 14th, 2019.
  • “Toward a better understanding of pleasant sounds and soundscapes in urban settings” by Eleanor Ratcliffe, first published online on November 27th, 2019.
  • “Chiller plant full-scale acoustic simulation in a quiet neighborhood” by Marylin Roa, Matthew Vetterick & Gary W. Siebein, first published online on November 29th, 2019.
  • “Healing the urban soundscape: reflections and reverberations” by Marcia Jenneth Epstein, first published online on December 1st, 2019.

Editorial information:

  • Guest Lead Editor: Antonella Radicchi, Technical University of Berlin, Berlin (antonella.radicchi@tu-berlin.de)
  • Guest 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 & Health: Marcus Grant (marcusxgrant@citieshealth.world)
  • Commissioning Editor of Cities & 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.