Effects of aircraft noise on reading and oral language abilities in German children near Frankfurt/Main airport: Results of the NORAH (noise-related annoyance, cognition, and health)-study

Regular paper

Maria Klatte

University of Kaiserslautern

Monday 1 june, 2015, 12:20 - 12:40

0.4 Brussels (189)

Prior research indicates that chronic exposure to aircraft noise may impair children’s cognitive development, especially reading acquisition. The hitherto most comprehensive study in this field RANCH yielded a linear exposure–effect relationship between aircraft noise levels and decreasing reading performance. In the framework of the NORAH-study, the effects of aircraft noise on cognitive performance were investigated in about 1.200 German second-graders from 29 schools in the vicinity of Frankfurt/Main Airport. In addition to reading and episodic long-term memory (story recall), phonological precursors of reading (phoneme perception, phonological awareness, phonological short-term memory), were assessed in order to investigate the mechanisms underlying the relationship between aircraft noise and reading ability. Potential confounding factors such as socioeconomic status, migration background, non-verbal abilities, methods of reading instruction, classroom insulation and exposure to road traffic and railway noise at school and at home were also assessed. Although aircraft noise levels at schools did not exceed 60 dB (LAeq 8-14) and were thus considerably lower than in RANCH and other studies, multilevel analyses revealed small but significant effects of aircraft noise on children´s reading comprehension. After adjustment for individual (level 1, e.g. socioeconomic status) and class-related (level 2, e.g., classroom insulation) factors, the analyses confirmed detrimental effects of aircraft noise at school on children´s reading performance. A 10 dB increase in aircraft noise was associated with a decrement of one-tenth of an SD on the reading test, corresponding to a one month reading delay in this test. Concerning phonological processing abilities and episodic memory, no significant effects of aircraft noise were found. The magnitude and relevance of the noise effects, and potential mechanisms underlying the association between aircraft noise and reading are discussed.

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