IF you want peace and quiet, go to one of Britain's major cities -because Darlington is beating them in making an ear-shattering racket.

The town has been given the dubious honour of being named one of the loudest places in the country for traffic. With a reading of 78.3 decibels (DB), it ranks joint fourth with Doncaster in the noise table, unbelievably coming just behind London with 78.5DB and Birmingham with 79.1DB and above Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester.

But it is Newcastle that tops the league, clocking the loudest reading in the country at 80.4DB -equivalent to a loud alarm clock ringing in your ear.

Sunderland came 24th in the survey with an average reading of 73.8DB, and York came 31st with 71.5DB. The quietest place surveyed was Torquay, with 60.2DB, the same as a normal conversation.

According to the Widex Noise Report, the noisiest place for traffic sounds in Darlington is the corner of Haughton Road and Alexander Street -one of the town's busiest stretches of road, one of the main routes for traffic between Darlington and Teesside.

Earplugs in hand, I set off to discover what the residents thought.

"I've lived here 20 years and it doesn't bother me," said Ann Cooper, 59. "I find it a busy road, but I do not find it noisy."

Neighbour Gemma Musgrave, 23, was also surprised by the results of the study.

"I've lived here all my life and I don't notice the traffic. It does not wake the children up, either," she said. "I never really notice the noise, it is only in the summer if you have all the windows open; you hear it a bit then."

But across the street, resident Georgina Reeve said the road was busy and noisy around the clock, with lorries using the route regularly.

"It is noisy, even with double glazing. It is something you get used to. Hopefully when they get the Eastern Transport Corridor built, some of the heavy traffic will go. "Trying to get across the road can take ten minutes."

So is this level of noise damaging?

The report's author, Professor Deepak Prasher, of the Ear Institute at the University College London, said: "Noise not only annoys, but also 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 and tinnitus."

Sounds pretty serious. But with Darlington Borough Council trying to get people out of their cars and onto bikes, and work on the Eastern Transport Corridor due to begin today, residents may finally get some peace and quiet.