The impact of poor acoustics
Whether at home, the office, at school or in a restaurant enjoying dinner with friends, we have all experienced the irritating discomfort of poor acoustics. Given that we spend the vast majority of our time inside, it is important to consider the impact acoustics have on our health, concentration, productivity and overall well-being.
There are multiple studies highlighting the importance of acoustics as a significant physical feature of our indoor environment and the impact that it has on our psychological and physiological well-being. Short term exposure to poor acoustics leads to a lack of concentration; it can increase difficulty processing information and performing tasks and affect speech intelligibility, causing everyone in the room to speak louder. This is known as the Lombard effect or the “Cocktail Party” effect.
While in the short term, this can cause irritation, long term effects of continuous exposure to indoor noise pollution can lead to hearing loss, increased heart rate and high blood pressure. The social cost of poor acoustics is expensive, accruing an annual cost of 30-40 billion Euros in Europe alone. Each year 10,000 Europeans die as a result of noise pollution and in the United States, hearing loss due to noise exposure at the office and general community is the third most widespread chronic health condition – more common that diabetes or cancer.
To reduce the consequences of uncontrolled acoustics, we have to introduce materials that absorb and dampen ambient sound levels, preventing reverberation.
To achieve proper sound absorption one must control the ambient sound pressure levels in a space, which increases speech intelligibility and makes conversation easier to hear and understand. This can be done by using sound absorbing materials on, for example, the ceiling and walls.
The quality of sound absorption is determined by the layout of the space and the materials used. Stone wool, the core material used in our acoustic tiles and panels, is by nature a highly sound-absorbent material. This allows you to achieve high levels of acoustic comfort without having to use ceilings tiles with dimples, perforations or holes.