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Soundscape of Catalonia during the first COVID-19 lockdown: Preliminary results from the Sons al Balcó project
* 1 , 1 , * 1 , 1 , 2 , 3
1  Grup de Recerca en Tecnologies Mèdia (GTM), La Salle—Universitat Ramon Llull, C/Quatre Camins, 30, 08022 Barcelona (Spain);
2  Research and Transference Office, La Salle — Universitat Ramon Llull, C/Sant Joan Baptista de La Salle, 42, 08022 Barcelona (Spain)
3  ISGlobal, Parc de Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona (PRBB). Doctor Aiguader, 88, 08003 Barcelona (Spain)


Environmental noise affects the health and wellbeing of millions of people in Europe. Some of the health effects of noise exposure include new cases of ischemic heart disease, chronic annoyance, sleep disturbance and premature death. Our home soundscape, which involves both positive (i.e. restorative sounds) and negative sounds (i.e. noise), changed drastically during the first COVID-19 lockdown. Sounds associated with daily activity became almost non-existent, especially during the strictest lockdown weeks. In this context, the Sons al Balcó project is aimed at studying the effect that the first lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused on the perception of both positive and negative sounds in Catalonia. The hypothesis is that the decrease in outdoor noise, accompanied by a rise of a more positive soundscape would have a positive impact on the degree of annoyance in the population, increasing wellbeing. We performed a socio-acoustic survey targeting all the citizens of Catalonia. The survey included socio-demographic questions as well as questions about 1) the quality of the residential soundscape and 2) the individual positive and negative sound perception before and during the lockdown for a range of sound sources. Furthermore, the survey allowed the participants to upload videos of their residential soundscapes and to characterize several types of sounds present during the recordings. More than 350 participants answered the questionnaire. As a result, we depicted the first soundscape of Catalonia during the first COVID-19 lockdown. Whereas 16.4% of the respondents found their sound environment “very good” before the lockdown, this proportion reached 63.4% during the lockdown. In addition, a 76.4% of respondents did not use the adjectives "strong", "noisy", "disturbing", and "sharp" to describe the sounds in their videos, which suggests the presence of positive soundscapes. Future work will allow us to perform a comparison between both objective (sound and video) and subjective (questionnaires) measures, giving us the opportunity to compare aspects never previously studied.

Keywords: soundscape; COVID-19; lockdown; noise perception; perceptual questionnaires