Indicator: Population exposure to traffic noise

A graph shows the proportion of people exposed to traffic noise above 55 decibels during the day and above 50 decibels at night, as observed in the 2012 and 2017 noise mappings. It differentiates between road, aircraft and rail traffic noise.Click to enlarge
Fraction of population exposed to traffic noise
Source: German Environment Agency Figure as PDF

Table of Contents


At a glance

  • According to the 2017 noise mapping, about 13.2 % of the total population was adversely affected by night-time noise. This is 0.6 percentage points less compared to 2012.
  • The 2017 noise mapping further showed that 19.1% of the population was exposed to a noise level of above 55 decibels during the day. This is about 2.3 percentage points less than in 2012.
  • The main source of noise is road traffic. Rail traffic is particularly relevant at night. Considering the area where people are affected, aircraft noise plays only a minor role.
  • Noise that exceeds exposure limits can lead to health problems.

Environmental importance

Traffic noise affects the lives of a large number of people in Germany and can have severe effects on health. Noise adversely affects the quality of life and can promote cardiovascular diseases, lead to cognitive impairment, have a negative impact on the sleep quality and be associated with mental disorder. For additional information on the health effects of environmental noise, see the publication UMID 1/2016 (in German only).

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO)published new guidelines on environmental noise for the European Region. These guidelines include source-specific recommendations for different types of transport. Herein, the WHO recommends that the noise exposure from road traffic should not exceed a mean level of 53 decibels (dB(A)) during the day and 45 dB(A) at night to avoid adverse consequences on health. According to the lowest available values used in noise mapping for measuring noise pollution, the values 55 dB(A) during the day and 50 dB(A) at night were used as threshold values for the indicator.


Assessing the development

According to the 2017 noise mapping, about 10.9 million people around major traffic routes, major airports and agglomerations were affected by traffic noise above 50 decibels (dB(A)) at night. During the day, around 15.8 million people were exposed to traffic noise exceeding 55 dB(A). This means that 13.2 % of the German population was affected by night-time noise, and 19.1 % by daytime noise.

The different types of transport produce different noise problems: The main source of noise is road traffic. Rail traffic tends to be a problem at night. Overall, only few people are affected by aircraft noise.

In 2009, the Federal Government passed a second national traffic noise protection package (‘Nationales Verkehrslärmschutzpaket II’, BMVBS 2009, in German only), which states that noise from road traffic and inland waterway transport is to be reduced by 30 %, air traffic noise by 20 % and rail traffic noise by as much as 50 % below 2008 levels by 2020. A number of measures have already been taken. More efforts are necessary, however, to achieve a significant reduction in noise pollution.



The basis for calculating the indicator is noise mapping, which has been enshrined in the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) since June 2005. Noise maps are the basis for informing the public and for noise action plans. In the European Union (EU), noise mapping is done by means of a uniform procedure based on the standards of the European Environmental Noise Directive. Noise maps have to be drawn up for agglomerations, major roads, major railways and major airports.

Detailed calculation instructions can be found in two method documents published by the Federal Government (BMU, BMVBS 2006 and 2007, in German only). In the future, these procedures will be replaced by common European noise assessment methods (BMU, BMVI 2018, in German only).

In agglomerations, double counting of people occurs to a small extent along roads with trams, since noise pollution from road traffic and rail traffic are recorded separately.

More detailed information: 'Gesundheitsrisiken durch Umgebungslärm' (in German only).