Newcastle upon Tyne is the noisiest urban area in the country, with sufficiently high decibel levels to cause severe hearing and health problems, a report found.
The city topped a traffic noise table with 80.4 decibels, the equivalent to a loud alarm clock ringing in your ear. Torquay was the least noisy, with a relatively tranquil 60 decibels, the level of a normal conversation.
Experts say that as decibels are a logarithmic index it makes Newcastle 100 times noisier than Torquay. They say the levels of noise the report uncovered should be seen as detrimental as air pollution. If loud enough, prolonged exposure to traffic noise could lead to irreversible hearing damage.
The report's author, Professor Deepak Prasher, of the Ear Institute, University College London, worked with Widex of Denmark, a hearing aid manufacturer. The Widex Noise Report measured traffic noise in 41 towns and cities around England during rush hour. Birmingham was second and London third.
Professor Prasher said: "Noise not only annoys but can raise our stress levels and associated hormone levels. It can disturb sleep and increase the risk of heart disease and, if the noise is loud enough, it can lead to permanent hearing impairment."