The way, in which noise diminishes social welfare ranges from impairing well being, causing concentration disorders or even leading to serious health damages. Thus, for example the risk of heart attacks significantly increases by noise exposure above a certain threshold.
For Germany the estimates state annual costs of noise between 5,36 and 9,1 billion euro. These figures usually consider only (road-)traffic noise and/or a part of the resulting costs. Thus, the estimation is rather a lower bound; it can be assumed that the external costs of noise are substantial, especially those who come along with production, logistics and consumption that cause noise disturbances.
The curve shows a continuous increase of noise damage costs from 5,32 billion euro in 1991 to 7,9 billion in 2014. After a peak in 2007 with 7,62 billion euro the costs for the two subsequent years declined due to a reduction in the volume of freight traffic during the recession. However, the value in 2007 was already surmounted in 2011. The 7,7 billion euro it the maximum value.
Altogether, the trend of increasing noise exposure through traffic is unbroken. This trend also reflects the rise in passenger and freight traffic in particular: in 2014 the volume of passenger road traffic was 28 % higher than in 1991, the freight traffic on road was even 89 % higher. Particularly freight transport on roads is very noise-intensive. Considering aircraft noise in addition would not only increase the total costs but also the damage costs since air traffic has substantially increased in the observation period.
From a welfare perspective, this is an alarming development. For some years there is political effort to implement countermeasures in noise action plans based on the EU Environmental Noise Directive. The long term objective is to reach an average sound level of 55 decibels at daytime and 45 decibels at night, which would considerably reduce the nuisance.