Paper of the Week | November 27 | 2017

Noise exposure while commuting in Toronto – a study of personal and public transportation in Toronto

Christopher M.K.L. Yao, Andrew K. Ma, Sharon L. Cushing and Vincent Y.W. Lin.

Journal of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery201746:62 23 November 2017



With an increasing proportion of the population living in cities, mass transportation has been rapidly expanding to facilitate the demand, yet there is a concern that mass transit has the potential to result in excessive exposure to noise, and subsequently noise-induced hearing loss.


Noise dosimetry was used to measure time-integrated noise levels in a representative sample of the Toronto Mass Transit system (subway, streetcar, and buses) both aboard moving transit vehicles and on boarding platforms from April – August 2016. 210 measurements were conducted with multiple measurements approximating 2 min on platforms, 4 min within a vehicle in motion, and 10 min while in a car, on a bike or on foot. Descriptive statistics for each type of transportation, and measurement location (platform vs. vehicle) was computed, with measurement locations compared using 1-way analysis of variance.


On average, there are 1.69 million riders per day, who are serviced by 69 subway stations, and 154 streetcar or subway routes. Average noise level was greater in the subway and bus than in the streetcar (79.8 +/− 4.0 dBA, 78.1 +/− 4.9 dBA, vs 71.5 +/−1.8 dBA, p < 0.0001). Furthermore, average noise measured on subway platforms were higher than within vehicles (80.9 +/− 3.9 dBA vs 76.8 +/− 2.6 dBA, p < 0.0001). Peak noise exposures on subway, bus and streetcar routes had an average of 109.8 +/− 4.9 dBA and range of 90.4–123.4 dBA, 112.3 +/− 6.0 dBA and 89.4–128.1 dBA, and 108.6 +/− 8.1 dBA and 103.5–125.2 dBA respectively. Peak noise exposures exceeded 115 dBA on 19.9%, 85.0%, and 20.0% of measurements in the subway, bus and streetcar respectively.


Although the mean average noise levels on the Toronto transit system are within the recommended level of safe noise exposure, cumulative intermittent bursts of impulse noise (peak noise exposures) particularly on bus routes have the potential to place individuals at risk for noise induced hearing