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Dr. Malcolm A. Swinbanks April 23, 2015 WorldWorld

Direct Experience of Low Frequency Noise and Infrasound within a Windfarm Community

Presented by Dr. Malcolm Swinbanks at Wind Turbine Noise 2015, Glasgow, 20-23 April 2015.

Maison et éoliennes


First Hand Experience of the Severe Adverse Effects of Infrasound

Malcolm A. Swinbanks
Dr. Malcolm A. Swinbanks

Approximately 18 months ago, the author was asked by a family living near the Ubly windturbines to help set up instrumentation and assess acoustic conditions within their basement, which is partially underground, where they hoped to encounter more tolerable sleeping conditions. In the early evening, the author arrived at the site. It was a beautiful evening, with very little wind at ground level, but the turbines were operating. Within the house, however, it was impossible to hear any noise from the turbines and it became necessary to go outside from time-to-time to confirm that they were indeed running.


After a period of about one hour, which time had been spent setting up instrumentation in the basement and using a laptop computer in the kitchen, the author began to feel a significant sense of lethargy. As further time passed this progressed to difficulty in concentration accompanied by nausea, so that around the 3 hour mark, he was feeling distinctly unwell. He thought back over the day, to remember what food he had eaten and whether he might have undertaken any other action that might bring about this effect. He had light meals of cereal for breakfast and salad for lunch, so it seemed unlikely that either could have been responsible. Meanwhile, the sun was going down leaving a beautiful orange-pink glow in the sky, while ground windspeed levels remained almost zero and the evening conditions could not have been more tranquil and pleasant.

It was only after about 3.5 hours that it suddenly struck home that these symptoms were being brought about by the wind-turbines. Since there was no audible sound, and the infrasound levels appeared to be sufficiently low that the author considered them to be of little consequence, he had not hitherto given any thought to this possibility.

As further time passed, the effects increasingly worsened, so that by 5 hours he felt extremely ill. It was quite uncanny to be trying to concentrate on a computer in a very solid, completely stationary kitchen, surrounded by solid oak cabinets, with granite counter tops 10 and a cast-iron sink, while feeling almost exactly the same symptoms as being seasick in a rough sea.

Finally, after 5 hours it was considered that enough trial runs had been taken and analysed that it was decided to set up for a long overnight run, leaving the instrumentation under the control of the home owners. The author was immensely relieved finally to be leaving the premises and able to make his way home clear of the wind turbines.

But it was by no means over. Upon getting into the car and driving out of the gateway, the author found that his balance and co-ordination were completely compromised, so that he was consistently oversteering, and the front of the car seemed to sway around like a boat at sea. It became very difficult to judge speed and distance, so that it was necessary to drive extremely slowly and with great caution.

Arriving home 40 minutes later, his wife observed immediately that he was unwell – apparently his face was completely ashen. It was a total of 5 hours after leaving the site before the symptoms finally abated.

It is often argued that such effects associated with wind turbines are due to stress or annoyance brought about by the relentless noise, but on this occasion there was no audible noise at all within the house. Moreover, it was a remarkably tranquil evening with a very impressive sunset, so any thought that problems could arise from the turbines was completely absent. It was only once the symptoms became increasingly severe that the author finally made the connection, having first considered and ruled out any other possibilities. So explanations of “nocebo effect” would hardly appear to be appropriate, when such awareness occurred only well into the event.


The fact that balance and coordination were found to be adversely compromised during the night drive home would suggest interference with the vestibular organs, as proposed by Pierpont (5) and subsequently by Schomer (6). An important additional observation, however, is that the effects persisted for 5 hours afterwards, when the immediate excitation was no longer present. In contrast, for sea-sickness, effects tend to dissipate rapidly once sea conditions moderate. It is of interest that a 1984 investigation (7), in which test subjects experienced 30 minutes exposure to 8Hz excitation at very much higher levels of 130dB, reported that some adverse effects could persist for several hours later.


It has been shown that upwind-rotor turbines can indeed sometimes give rise to impulsive low-frequency infrasound – a characteristic commonly attributed only to old-fashioned downwind rotor configurations. But perception of wind turbine low frequency noise and infrasound can be quickly suppressed by the effects of wind-induced airflow over the ears, with the result that incorrect conclusions can easily result from observations made when exposed to outside breezy conditions. The effects within a residence are much more readily perceptible, and cannot be ignored. An account has been given of an occurrence of severe direct health effects experienced by the author, and considered to be due entirely to wind-turbine infrasound, yet manifest under superficially benign conditions where no such adverse effects were anticipated.

Full paper

Dr. Swinbanks' poster presentation:

M. A. Swinbanks' poster presentation
Presented by Dr. Malcolm A. Swinbanks at Wind Turbine Noise 2015, Glasgow, 20-23 April 2015