WE live in a very noisy society — in fact, we cannot get away from it, especially during the summer.

Apart from seasonal lawnmowers, strimmers, laughing children and lively barbecues, noise at any time can impact on our health, depriving us of sleep, increasing blood pressure and heart-rate and damaging quality of life.

But, are we too sensitive to noise levels? Can we get used to persistent noise? What is an acceptable level? And where is the noisiest place in Bolton?

I teamed up with acoustic consultant Jo Miller to discover some of Bolton’s noisiest — and quietest — spots.

Ms Miller is a partner in Miller Goodall Environmental Services in Bradshaw, which works on noise assessments and noise mapping and improving acoustic design in new buildings.

She was armed with a noise level meter, a clever piece of hi-tech kit that accurately monitors noise over time.

Acceptable levels of noise in residential areas is ideally 50-55 dBA (decibels) outside, 34-40 dBA in the living room and 30-35 dBA in the bedroom.

But we thought that we would first monitor some public areas without residents to consider.

Our first port of call was Bolton Market, where we headed for the fish stalls.

Now, noise within this environment is not unpleasant or damaging — it is part of the colourful life of any market and as such is acceptable to the crowds milling around.

We asked stallholders to replicate their typical shouted market “patter” to persuade customers to buy.

And the “lurvely fish — grill it, bake it, fry it!” and details of the latest bargains on individual stalls registered a lively average 77 dBA to a maximum of 86 dBA on the noise meter over several minutes.

Ms Miller’s verdict: “This isn’t the kind of noise we worry about. This is typical of a market and it’s what shoppers expect, so no problem.”

Still in the town centre, we joined the lunchtime crowds sitting in the sunshine in Victoria Square and listened to the pan pipes’ music played by the entertainers. This measured 73 dBA to a maximum of 81 dBA and was not loud enough to prevent people chatting happily.

Ms Miller’s verdict: “This isn’t sustained noise and it’s something people like so they’re happy about it. Sometimes loud noise is still welcome, but this reading also includes background noise like someone else playing music just nearby and crowd noise.”

Next stop was Chorley Old Road at the junction by Morrisons’ supermarket.

This is a busy spot, used by a variety of traffic including heavy lorries making deliveries. The noise here was 65 dBA with a maximum of 75 dBA.

Mr Miller’s verdict: “This is quite high and sustained but no surprise really as we’re on a busy main road. There are some flats nearby and it would be noisy to have a window open, although people can get used to this.”

A modern development of houses and flats in Horwich was next on this brief local noise tour.

Here, properties extend as near as 40m to the M61 motorway, which can be seen from the road.

The noise level here from lorries and other traffic was 57 dBA to a maximum of 60 dBA.

We next looked at new and old property in Chew Moor also within a short distance of the motorway traffic, but this time hidden by trees.

Here, the meter measured 61 dBA with a maximum of 75 dBA.

Ms Miller’s verdict: “There’s a bit of a misunderstanding about trees and how they alter noise.

“As the levels show here, the trees are not reducing noise much. Motorway traffic is generally noiser because vehicles are going faster and are fairly continuous 24 hours a day.”

We decided to search out some quieter spots, too, and on Ox Hey Lane in Lostock, you turn off busy Chorley New Road straight into a peaceful country lane.

Even overlooking Bolton Wanderers’ youth academy’s playing fields with training in progress, the meter measured only 42 dBA with a maximum of 51 dBA.

Ms Miller’s verdict: “This is a quiet spot.”

When it comes to choosing where to live and if you’re concerned about possible noise levels, Ms Miller recommends seeing the property at different times of the day and on different days to check local noise levels. The final place we visited was RINGLEY, just down the road from Stoneclough in Kearsley.

This rural area is a popular residential spot, but slightly further on from the local pub, school and houses is a large site occupied by a water treatment plant.

Just a short walk from that is a garden centre by the river and that is where we set the sound level monitor, where it was a peaceful 38 dBA to a maximum of 48 dBA.

Ms Miller’s verdict: “Even though it’s very near the treatment plant, this is a particularly quiet area. There is little traffic or other noise with the sound of birds and the river dominating.”

When it comes to choosing where to live and if you’re concerned about possible noise levels, Ms Miller recommends seeing the property at different times of the day and on different days to check local noise levels. She also suggests spending time both inside and outside the property to listen to the noise around you.

Ms Miller: “When considering the internal finishes of a property in relation to noise, soft furnishings and carpets help to reduce noise in a house.

“If you’re in a flat and you’ve got people living below you, give some serious thought to the noise levels if you’re thinking of swapping carpet for laminated flooring or hard floor finishes. Shiny surfaces generally reflect noise and can lead to problems with echoes in rooms.”

  • Do you think these are the noisiest places in Bolton? Tell us by e-mailing newsdesk@theboltonnews.co.uk or comment below.