Is pickleball louder than tennis?

Photo credit: OvertAnalyzer licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

We have covered multiple reports of neighbor complaints about noise from pickleball courts, with many of the reports noting that when the same courts were used for tennis neighbors didn’t complain. A new report from Washington, D.C. television station WUSA9 explains why.

Sound measurements from tennis and pickleball produce approximately the same noise levels. If that’s true, why do people complain so much about pickleball noise? The answer: Hitting a tennis ball produces lower frequency sounds that are less perceptible and less annoying than the mid-range or higher frequency sounds produced by the hard pickleball racket hitting the hard plastic pickleball.

The WUSA9 report didn’t provide the frequency band distributions of their sound measurements, so we have to rely on what their experts concluded. They also noted that intermittent sounds are usually more disturbing than continuous sounds, using the example of a faucet running vs. a faucet dripping.

I’ve actually never heard pickleball being played so I have no personal knowledge of its noise. As a doctor, I’m concerned about health in general, not just auditory health. Since 75% of Americans don’t get sufficient exercise, anything that encourages people to exercise is a good thing.

I hope solutions to the pickleball noise problem can be found. These might include plantings, sound walls, berms, placing new pickelball courts below grade, limiting hours of play, and probably a combination of all these measures depending on each particular situation.

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