The Effect of Intermittent Noise on Cardiovascular Functioning During Vigilance Task Performance


  • The authors wish to acknowledge the programming assistance given by Mr. John Holden of the Department of Psychology at the University of Sydney.

Address requests for reprints to: Dr. N. L. Carter, National Acoustic Laboratories, 126 Greville Street, Chatswood 2067, New South Wales, Australia.


This study was designed to investigate the effect of presentations of intermittent noise differing in predictability on cardiovascular functioning during task performance. Under a quiet condition and three conditions of intermittent noise, measures of blood pressure, heart rate (interbeat interval), and heart rate variability (variance, successive difference mean square, and the 0.1 Hz component of sinus arrhythmia) were obtained while subjects were occupied with a 55-min vigilance task. The results indicated that intermittent noise significantly increased diastolic and mean blood pressure. In addition, 0.1 Hz measures differed between the group working under quiet conditions and the groups working under noise. Although heart rate increased in all groups during the task, it increased significantly more in groups receiving unpredictable noise bursts. For the variables that were significantly affected by the noise presentations there was no evidence of response habituation over the task period. The results are discussed in relation to the effort required to maintain performance levels during noise, and attention is drawn to the implications of the present findings for cardiovascular health under conditions of chronic intermittent noise.