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Association between Ambient Noise Exposure and School Performance of Children Living in An Urban Area: A Cross-Sectional Population-Based Study

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Most of the studies investigating the effects of the external noise on children’s school performance have concerned pupils in schools exposed to high levels due to aircraft or freeway traffic noise. However, little is known about the consequences of the chronic ambient noise exposure at a level commonly encountered in residential urban areas. This study aimed to assess the relationship between the school performance of 8- to 9-year-old-children living in an urban environment and their chronic ambient noise exposure at home and at school. The children’s school performances on the national standardized assessment test in French and mathematics were compared with the environmental noise levels. Children’s exposure to ambient noise was calculated in front of their bedrooms (Lden) and schools (LAeq,day) using noise prediction modeling. Questionnaires were distributed to the families to collect potential confounding factors. Among the 746 respondent children, 586 were included in multilevel analyses. On average, the LAeq,day at school was 51.5 dB (SD= 4.5 dB; range = 38–58 dB) and the outdoor Lden at home was 56.4 dB (SD= 4.4 dB; range = 44–69 dB). LAeq,day at school was associated with impaired mathematics score (p = 0.02) or impaired French score (p = 0.01). For a + 10 dB gap, the French and mathematics scores were on average lower by about 5.5 points. Lden at home was significantly associated with impaired French performance when considered alone (p < 10−3) and was borderline significant when the combined home-school exposure was considered (p = 0.06). The magnitude of the observed effect on school performance may appear modest, but should be considered in light of the number of people who are potentially chronically exposed to similar environmental noise levels.

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This work was made possible by the unconditional support of Christine Dodane (Inspection académique du Doubs). We are grateful to the children, families, and teachers who cooperated in this study. We would also like to thank Laurence Tilatti, Valérie Ninucci, Marie-Caroline Clément, and Jean-Marc Cote for their dedication to this project. This research was supported by the French Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MEDD) as part of PREDIT, the French research program on land transportation (grant number CV05000161, established on January 27, 2006). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Frédéric Mauny.

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Professor Marc Berthillier died between the submission and the acceptance of this article.

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Pujol, S., Levain, JP., Houot, H. et al. Association between Ambient Noise Exposure and School Performance of Children Living in An Urban Area: A Cross-Sectional Population-Based Study. J Urban Health 91, 256–271 (2014).

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