For the past three years, Research Co. and Glacier Media have gauged the experience of Canadians with noise. In our first poll, conducted in January 2021 while many of us were still confined to our homes on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, 27 per cent of Canadians told us that their city or town had become noisier. In August 2022, the proportion rose dramatically to 49 per cent.
This past weekend, we were in field again. The numbers have climbed, although not as dramatically as they did in 2022. Still, and for the first time, a majority of Canadians (54 per cent, up five points) told us that their city or town has become noisier in the past year.
The results of the survey are more stable when Canadians ponder if noise has worsened over the past 12 months on their street (43 per cent, up two points) and inside their home (32 per cent, also up two points).
Canadians aged 18 to 34 are more likely to say that their city or town is noisier now (61 per cent) than their counterparts aged 35 to 54 (50 per cent) and aged 55 and over (53 per cent). In three provinces – British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario – more than three in five residents (61 per cent) believe noise has become a bigger issue. The proportions are lower in Quebec (50 per cent), Atlantic Canada (45 per cent) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (44 per cent).
Only one in five Canadians (20 per cent) told us they were not bothered by any of 16 different noises while they were inside their homes. This represents a two-point drop since 2022 and is significantly lower than what was gathered in the 2021 baseline survey (34 per cent).
There is, in a strange way, a silver lining when it comes to one specific nuisance. This year, 32 per cent of Canadians say they were bothered by unnecessary noise from vehicles, such as motorcycles and cars revving up. While this is still the most recalled bothersome disturbance, it is down four points since 2022. We also observe a generational difference, with 41 per cent of Canadians aged 55 and over recalling this unnecessary nuisance, compared to 29 per cent for those aged 18 to 34 and 26 per cent for those aged 35 to 54.
Only two other items on our list have bothered more than quarter of Canadians in the past year: dogs barking (30 per cent, up three points) and construction-related noises, such roofing, land clearing and heavy machinery (29 per cent, unchanged). British Columbia is significantly ahead of the national average on strident canines (35 per cent).
There are some subtle changes on most of the noises we track, including Canadians being bothered by loud people outside their home (23 per cent, down five points), a car alarm (22 per cent, down two points), loud music playing inside a vehicle (also 22 per cent, up one point), loud music at a nearby home (21 per cent, up three points), and drivers honking the horn excessively (also 21 per cent, up one points). The results suggest that Ontario is home to the largest proportion of drivers who do not use the horn exclusively for emergencies (27 per cent).
Other nuisances remain in the memories of fewer Canadians, including yard work, such as lawnmowers and leaf blowers (20 per cent, down five points), yelling or screaming at a nearby home (also 20 per cent, up one point), fireworks (also 20 per cent, up two points), power tools, such as electric saws and sanders (19 per cent, down two points), a loud gathering or party at a nearby home (16 per cent, down point), a home alarm (11 per cent, up one point) and cats meowing (seven per cent, unchanged).
Fireworks, which are particularly dreaded by pet owners and parents trying to put young children to bed, are a more severe matter in a particular province. Almost three in 10 British Columbians (29 per cent) have been bothered by fireworks in the past year, with Ontario a distant second at 22 per cent.
The slight drop in the proportion of Canadians who were not disturbed by noise at home coincides with some of the mitigating actions that individuals can take. The proportion of Canadians who have acquired noise cancelling headphones or earphones increased from seven per cent in 2022 to 11 per cent in 2023. Other actions include relying on earplugs or earmuffs to mitigate noise at home (16 per cent up two points), reporting noise concerns to the police (nine per cent, up one point) and packing up and moving away (six per cent, up one point).
Our annual survey on noise did not herald a return to the 2021 scenario, when Canadians were not as bothered by what transpired outside of their homes. While the proportion of Canadians who look at their place of residence as noisy has not increased dramatically, there is a generation that is evidently having a tougher time. Those aged 18 to 34 lead the way in both buying noise cancelling equipment (19 per cent) and reaching for the earplugs or earmuffs (25 per cent) when they feel their home is no longer a sanctuary.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online survey conducted from May 19-21, 2023, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20