Most (if not all) Londoners will have encountered the ear-shattering noises made by Tube trains when they race through certain tunnels. And according to researchers, this incredibly loud noise could be damaging hearing.
A study by the BBC found the noise level goes about 105 decibels on 10 tube journeys, with the Central, Northern and Jubilee lines being the worst offenders.
Loudness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB) and experts agree that exposure to noise at or above 85 dB can damage hearing over time. The average nightclub has a noise level of over 100dB and the average gig is 110dB, meanwhile the noise levels of the London Underground can often sit somewhere in between.
Dr Joe Sollini, from University College London’s Ear Institute, labelled the findings as “concerning” as any sounds in a workplace at or above 85dB would require hearing protection.
The findings form part of BBC One’s ‘Inside Out London’, where Gareth Furby investigates whether travelling on the Tube can damage hearing.
Commenting on the data, Dr Sollini told HuffPost UK: “The peak sound levels being greater than 105dB on 10 journeys was somewhat of a surprise, but at the same time being a regular commuter I am fully aware that the train can become uncomfortably loud at times.
“Of more of a concern for me is that the average sound levels measured were also reasonably high. For example, the Victoria line was more than 87dB. To put that into perspective using World Health Organisation guidelines, a daily commute of 30 minutes on the Victoria line would be sufficient to increase the risk of hearing loss.”
So how can you protect your hearing on your daily commute? Gemma Twitchen, senior audiologist at Action On Hearing Loss, recommends using earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones.
She added: “We’d welcome more research into the noise levels on the tubes and urge TfL to make the necessary changes to protect people’s hearing.”
TfL is investigating the use of noise-dampening track fastenings in order to reduce tunnel noise, as well as the possibility of lowering train speeds in some areas.
Nigel Holness, London Underground’s Network Operations Director, told HuffPost UK: “We are committed to doing everything we can to make sure that the Tube is a safe environment for our staff and our customers. We monitor noise levels on the Tube and ensure that they are below those set by the Health & Safety Executive.
“We use noise mitigation measures like grinding or replacing rails in order to ensure a smoother journey and are investigating other innovative solutions to further reduce noise.”
He added: “While customers travelling on our network can experience noise, higher volumes tend to be for short periods of time and Health & Safety Executive guidance on noise suggests it is highly unlikely to cause any long-term damage to customers’ hearing.”
‘Inside Out London’ airs on BBC One on 29 January at 19:30.