Noise Volume

Noise Volume 

How is noise measured and disclosed and how does noise effect hearing and general health?

Noise affects people in two ways:

  1. Noise volume can
    • Damage the ear causing loss of hearing, and
    • Cause and exacerbate many health problems including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, immune toxicity and disease, diabetes, stroke, PTSD, and cognitive damage and hearing loss in the fetus.
  2. Noise annoyance, perceived differently by each listener, can
    • Produce stress effecting psychological health,
    • Contribute to many of the physical health problems mentioned above, and
    • Dramatically decrease quality of life.

For more on the detrimental effects of annoyance, see the Noise Annoyance page. It has a special health bearing for noise zone sufferers near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI)because many home buyers were trapped under the noise due to illegal non-disclosure, denying families the  choice of a life without the continuing, deafening, sickening, maddening blasts of one of the loudest planes ever flown. The annoyance factor exacerbates the effects of the volume.

Noise Measurement

To understand noise, you must first know how it is measured. Here is a noise chart taken from the 2005 AICUZ for NASWI showing a basic comparison of noise levels.   Click to enlarge:


The 120 dBA Threshold of Pain is shown above.  This is the level of noise blasting down on the neighborhood of Admiral’s Cove from Growler jets descending during carrier landings practice  at the small, outdated OLF runway, 17 miles south of the base.  It is ever louder when afterburners are used to practice wave-offs, which occurs in 1 out of every 10 operations.

The following graphic shows why the noise is so frightening and extreme – LOW ALTITUDE.  Click to enlarge.

Landing pattern and altitudes

Look at the arrow pointing to a Google Map of Admirals Cove on the left and another an arrow pointing to the same location on the Navy’s OLF Flight Pattern graphic to the right.  It shows pilots are trained to descend to 300 at that point, but there is a margin or error, so they do fly lower.

The Navy is often contacted by people being razed by these low-flying jets.  The following is an email from the Navy in response to a citizen pressing for honest altitude information for homes in the area of the orange circle above.  At the EIS scoping meeting a month later, two pilots reported that they fly at 250-350 feet over homes at the point shown above.  Click below to enlarge the email.

Altitude email

This low altitude is illegal everywhere.  Even the Supreme Court has ruled “takings” under 500 feet, but there are no laws for the Navy here. Because of the number of years they have done this, an “easement” has been established.

No one told the Title companies who do not reveal this easement in title searches when each new buyer pays to find this critical information.

The following is information on the ruling in Argent vs. US in 1999 where residents of Admirals Cove sued the Navy for “taking” their property, a long, expensive, and devastating battle.  The court ruled that the Navy “took avigation easements over their property and otherwise diminished their use and enjoyment of their property without paying just compensation” in violation of the 5th Amendment.  Click to enlarge.

Constitutional Protection Under the 5th Ammndment

But residents lost because the Navy had been doing it for so long.  Click to enlarge.

Admirals Cove Residents Lost Because of a Navy Easement

If the Navy had recorded that easement, it would have been included in all title searches.  Instead of recording it, the Navy now denies it.  Click to enlarge.

easement email

Navy easements were not disclosed in a title search, jet noise was not disclosed in closing documents, and the County did not follow Navy recommendations that homes should not be built in crash zones in the first place.  Who benefits when this information is not provided?

  1. Island County collected more in taxes,
  2. Realtors made more money and sales were easier,
  3. Leaders enjoyed popularity in the military community resulting in influence and votes, and
  4. the Navy expanded freely.

Buyers caught in the 20-year turn-over of property paid the price.

The question now is whether or not the Growler is louder than the Prowler.  All of the objective measurements and experience of citizens living below is that it is.  Could that be the reason measurements are not taken on the ground?  It would be easy to fly each plane and take ground measurements along the flight path.  But instead, the Navy insists on “computer measurements” far removed from what real people actually experience.

What are the noise measurements in the noise zones?

In May of 2013, The Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve contracted with JGL Acoustics, Inc. to measure noise levels around the OLF Coupeville.  Here is an aerial view of the positions for the Lilly Report, along with the measurements taken.  Click to enlarge.

Lilly Positions and Statistics

Let’s focus on three measurements – dB,dBA,and DNL

dB Measurement

The measurement that is the most shocking and abrupt is the dB measurement.  It is the highest reading from one second of sound.  It is the 134+ burst at Position 1 of the Lilly Report that would almost be equal to the 137 measurement achieved in a competition for the loudest stadium noise ever produced. Click to enlarge.

seahawks chart

The dBA measurement is the 100+ dBA used in the 1992 Island County Noise Disclosure Statement.  After 20 years of illegal disclosure, it is now in use again. It measures an average of one second of noise.  A noise level of 119 dBA was measured in the 2013 Lilly Report, four times louder than the 100+ listed in the Noise Disclosure, because noise doubles with every 10 dBA increase.  The increase, shown on the above chart to be the difference between standing next to a train and standing next to an air raid siren producing ear pain, is represented only by that insignificant looking “+” sign.

DNL Measurement

DNL Measurement is based on studies of high annoyance and presented in the Shultz Curve.  It is a ridiculous measurement for noise zones here, with jets flying directly overhead at low altitudes, because no study has ever been done to measure either the health impacts or the annoyance reports at these horrifically high levels.  Civilians living here do not bother complaining.  Any military entity that has ignored this population for decades, fought them with lawsuits, provided bad information, empowered a Base Commander to deny valid information face-to-face, and bring in a never ending stream of squadrons of Growler jets to fly over them is unlikely to be responsive.  Many people who hate 119 decibel level noise and fight it tirelessly have never called a Navy complaint line.  View the Navy Presentation on Noise Annoyance

Noise zones maps with DNL measurements are included in the following Navy brochure, produced to be used by entities like the NWMLS and individual area realtors.  Be sure to open it and question why buyers and renters have not been given a copy:

NAS Whidbey AICUZ Brochure

Notice in the brochure that 85+ levels are identified.  These are not shown on the Noise Zone Maps provided by Island County.  The highest level on those maps is 75+.  The Navy brochure recommends there be no residential use at all in the 65-85 DNL range, but whole neighborhoods like Admirals Cove were built there and building permits are still being issued for the remaining vacant lots.

DNL measurements are the most confusing measurement provided by the Navy on the noise zone maps intended for noise disclosure.  These measurements are a calculation of the day–night average sound level.  It is a complicated measurement, but to summarize, it is a calculation based on averages, with nighttime adjustments.  In the past,  they were intended to give the Navy a measurement of probable citizen complaints.  Highly disputed in their validity, they now disguise the true volume of the noise and, therefore, hide the more significant problems—health impacts and shear panic when exposed to the real extent of the noise.

The DNL metric measurement of choice is the lowest and it does not inform buyers about the bursts of noise that can be 134+ nor the noise event of 119+.  The cycling roars overhead are much more damaging and emotionally frightening than the average of what might happen over time. It is like saying the average wind speed in New Orleans during 2005 was 9 knots, which just happens to include the wind events of Hurricane Katrina.

When the noise level is 119 dBA with 134+ dB bursts, you instinctively cover your ears and run.  The noise zone maps realtors use show the highest DNL measurement at 75+, with that very misleading “+”sign again instead of the 85 DNL in the Navy brochure.   This measurement would actually reassure a buyer because most would think DNLs are the high end of what you experience.

The Navy probably realizes that DNL measurements are confusing.  It presents the noise as bearable.  It is like telling a citizen that has one foot in a bucket of boiling water and another in a bucket of ice that the temperature of their feet is bearable.   It is not a helpful measurement for people trying to determine the noise above a home they want to buy.  No one knows what it is, and few understand it even after it is explained.

Other Noise Charts

How loud is 119 decibels?

The following chart compares noise measured at 119 dBA in Admiral’s Cove with a thunderclap. During any 24-hour period, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that 1.5 minutes at 100 dBA or 5 minutes at 95 dBA is sufficient to cause permanent incremental hearing loss. The Lilly Report indicates that many people under the jet shadow routinely experience those noise levels in one session of Growler practice at the OLF.

Click to enlarge.

noise level thunderclap

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health  (NIOSH) estimates 115 to 120 dBA as the critical noise level at which human hearing is subject to instantaneous permanent damage effects. Without adequate hearing protection, any exposure to noise levels above 115 dBA is likely to cause some degree of permanent hearing threshold shift. The Permissible Noise Level Exposure Chart below is routinely exceeded in many areas around the OLF:

NIOSH Daily   Permissible Noise Level Exposure

Hours per day

Sound level

















.25 or less




Find additional information at:

Noise Volume, Hearing Loss, and Health Problems

There is a health emergency on Whidbey Island.  People of all ages, but especially the young and elderly, are experiencing loss of hearing and a progression toward a variety of ailments that are deadly.  Like the effects of nicotine, the harmful effects are obvious and predictable, but difficult for an individual to prove in a court of law because there are too many variables. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, and legal action against the Navy would be expensive.

Training has been curtailed at the OLF since 2013 legal action to require the EIS.  It is clear using DNL measurements instead of SEL (repeated Single Event Levels of ear-splitting body-wracking noise) will allow the Navy to determine there is “no impact” on this population, allowing them to continue with even more dangerous escalation from the current 112 to 153 Growlers by 2017, to their plans for even more beyond that.

The health affects of noise go far beyond loss of hearing.  There are potentially deadly consequences.  For an studies validating the health emergency we face, read:

Community Aircraft Noise_A Public Health Issue

Or, view COER’s video,  “The Effects of Airplane Noise on Communities.”

In Summary

An Environmental Impact Study is not required for anyone who has lived around the noise and sees its effects on others, especially children.  The following video shows what parents see each time the jets fly:

Ball Game Over – here come the jets

The bottom line is that the noise volume experienced by people in the noise zones is illegal in every city, county, and state in the land because of the proven, serious, adverse effects of the noise.  Though the military is above the law and it can produce noise at these levels, individuals making the decisions to fly military jets above civilian neighborhoods adjacent to NASWI must determine if they should continue at the same dangerous level. The ultimate solution will likely be a long overdue Congressional intervention.

More information about noise induced hearing loss can be found at:

More information about the health effects of noise can be found at:

Noise is just one of the dangers of Growler jets.  They can be instant killers.  See Growler Jets 36 Times More Likely to Crash than Prowler Jets at

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