Survey: Rising level of urban noise disturbing an increasing number of Canadians

In January 2021, when Research Co. and Glacier Media first asked Canadians about noise, we thought the situation was dire. More than a quarter of Canadians (27 per cent) told us that their city or town had become noisier in the past 12 months. Many also reported being subjected to various nuisances in their homes, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic kept many adults away from the office.

A year and a half later, it is safe to say that things have not improved. If anything, going out again has enabled Canadians to experience their municipalities with fresh ears. This month, 49 per cent of Canadians told us that the city or town where they live is noisier than in 2021, up 22 points since our previous survey.

We also see 41 per cent of Canadians (up 18 points) saying that their street is noisier than last year, and 30 per cent (up two points) feeling the same way about their home.

The groups that were identified as being particularly sensitive to noise inside their dwellings in 2021 are still present in this year’s findings: a third of women (32 per cent), two in five Canadians aged 18 to 34 (40 per cent) and more than a third of British Columbians (37 per cent) say their home is not as quiet as it used to be.

In 2021, just over a third of Canadians (34 per cent) claimed to not have been bothered by noise while inside their homes. This year, the proportion has fallen to just 22 per cent, with significant growth observed on some pesky nuisances.

As was the case last year, the top regrettable disturbance is unnecessary noise from vehicles, such as motorcycles and cars revving up. More than a third of Canadians (36 per cent) have been bothered by this commotion, including 45 per cent of Albertans and 43 per cent of British Columbians.

This year, we added construction-related noises to the survey, and found that 29 per cent of Canadians have been bothered by roofing, land clearing and heavy machinery at some point in the past year. There is a sizable increase in the proportion of Canadians who heard loud people outside their home (28 per cent, up eight points), a proportion that jumps to 39 per cent in Alberta.

At least one in four Canadians also endured dogs barking (27 per cent, up three points), a car alarm (25 per cent, up five points) and lawnmowers, leaf blowers and other yard work (25 per cent, up six points) when they were at home in the past year.

There is a bit of growth on other nuisances that we track, including loud music playing inside a vehicle (21 per cent, up three points), power tools, such as electric saws and sanders (21 per cent, up three points), yelling or screaming at a nearby home (19 per cent, up one point), loud music at a nearby home (18 per cent, up one point), fireworks (also 18 per cent, up two points), a loud gathering or party at a nearby home (17 per cent, up two points), a home alarm (10 per cent, up one point) and cats meowing (seven per cent, up two points).

One statistic that caught our eye is the growth in Canadians reporting a driver honking the horn excessively. This year, one in five Canadians (20 per cent, up eight points) have been bothered by this noise, including 30 per cent of British Columbians.

In spite of the growth in reported nuisances, and with half of Canadians saying their city is not as quiet as it used to be, few of us are taking action to deal with the situation. Only 14 per cent of Canadians have relied on earplugs or earmuffs to mitigate noise when they are at home. Fewer than one in 10 reported noise concerns to the police (eight per cent), acquired noise-cancelling headphones or earphones (seven per cent) or moved to get away from a boisterous street (five per cent).

Even if the Canada-wide averages are up on all of the items we track, it is clear that two provinces in Western Canada are noisier. In Alberta, we are more likely to be exposed to loud people outside our homes, dogs barking and the screeching melody of power tools. Supposedly mellow British Columbia is significantly ahead of the national average on loud gatherings, unnecessary noise from vehicles and yard work.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online survey conducted from August 14 to August 16, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.