The (VERY) high cost of noise


Can we afford the noise?

A study published last June by the French Agency Against Noise (Conseil National du Bruit) and the French Environment Agency (ADEME) tried, for the first time, to estimate the total cost of noise pollution in France. The result?

57.2 billion euros in social costs.


And this figure is very likely to be a low estimate, as it is impossible to take into account certain direct and indirect impacts of noise.

These 57 billion euros can be divided into six categories of cost which are brought about by our exposure to noise:

  • Impact of traffic noise on health
  • Indirect costs of traffic noise (for example, on real estate)
  • Workplace accidents and hearing loss caused by occupational noise
  • Distraction in the workplace and productivity loss
  • Impact of noise in educational premises
  • Impact of neighbourhood noise



Noise in the workplace seems to be very expensive! It is already well known: noise has a strong impact on our performance, our satisfaction as well as our ability to focus. And even though the impact of noise on productivity has been assessed by many studies, none of them went as far as monetising this impact until now.

Let’s take a look at the calculation method of this study.

  • 57%: the share of French office workers claiming that their ability to focus is impacted by one or several noise sources. The authors of the study have chosen quite a “conservative” statistic. For example, a survey made by Opinion Matters for Plantronics in 2015 showed that 93.5% of office workers were annoyed by noise.
  • 19.6 million: the estimated number of office workers in France. The French National Statistics Bureau (INSEE) estimated in 2013 that 76% of the population was working in an office (tertiary sector).
  • 5 days: it’s the Hypothesis (capital H!) of this study. In the absence of any research to guide them, the authors have decided to suppose that the impact of noise on concentration was equivalent to losing 5 working days, or 35 hours of lost “production”, each year.
  • 45.40: the average hourly productivity rate in France, according to Eurostat and the OECD.


All that is left to do is to calculate! Every office worker impacted by noise costs 35 x 45.40 = €1,589 per year. They are 57% out of the 19.6 million workers, which is 11.2 million. This gives us the final bill: 11.2m x 1,589 = 18 billion euros.


We could discuss the choice of hypotheses to estimate the economic impact of office noise over and over again. In any case, this study should set off alarm bells: noise is much more expensive than we tend to assume! Such figures should encourage us to find out how to finally tackle this real social problem.

Just for the record, 57 billion euros is 2.7% of the French GDP (2014).

Or even, the list price of 145 Airbus A380 aircrafts.

If you want to know more, you can read the full report “Bibliographical analysis of French and European works: social cost of noise pollutions” here (in French).

This post has been translated from our French office expert, Thomas Roul’s blog,, follow him on Twitter:




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