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Environmental noise is a growing and well recognized health problem. However, in many cases people are exposed not to a single noise source - for example, road, railway, or aircraft noise - but to a combination of noise exposures and there is only limited knowledge of the effects on health of exposure to combined noise sources. A socio-acoustic survey among 1953 persons aged 18-75 years was conducted in residential areas exposed to railway and road traffic noise with sound levels ranging from LAeq,24h 45-72 dB in a municipality east of Gothenburg, Sweden. The objectives were to assess various adverse health effects, including annoyance, and to elucidate the impact of exposure to single and combined noise sources. In areas exposed to both railway and road traffic, the proportion annoyed by the total traffic sound environment (total annoyance) was significantly higher than in areas with one dominant noise source rail or road traffic with the same total sound exposure (LAeq,24h,tot). This interaction effect was significant from 59 dB and increased gradually with higher sound levels. Effects of the total sound exposure should be considered in risk assessments and in noise mitigation activities.

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