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02 October 2017
Jeroen de Klaver

The importance of good acoustics


There seems to be more and more attention for acoustics. From a restaurant to a multi-functional church and from a call centre to a nursing home: good acoustics are considered to be increasingly important. But what actually is the importance of proper acoustics? We will answer that question in this blogpost.

Our daily life and our work activities no longer consist of well-defined, routine tasks. People are searching, analysing and processing information, establish links and exchange knowledge with colleagues, clients and suppliers. Using the modern technology, one is expected to switch quickly and to be flexible at all times. Telephones keep on ringing and consultations take place continuously. Tasks form themselves around goals. Tranquillity and concentration are necessary aspects to go through this process in an effective way.

After a complex task is disrupted, a person needs at least 8 minutes to reach the same level of concentration and speed as before the interruption (Gonzales, 2005).

Our ancestors have been living outdoors for millions of years and our senses have developed and adjusted accordingly. From the drift to survive, the human being also had to see, smell or hear dangers for them to quickly take suitable action: flee or fight. In both cases, imminent danger creates adrenaline and this increases the heartbeat. It has only been a relatively short period of time since we have been living and working the most part of our time indoors. Evolutionary speaking, our senses have not yet adjusted to this change. This means our senses are constantly trying to trace imminent danger.

Noise, scent and images are scanned and processed continuously. We are therefore always in a state of preparedness which impairs our attention to tasks and objectives. The worse the acoustics, the more difficult it is to place noise in its proper context. This means a high level of noise (for example because of reverberation), leads to a cluttered and, with that, stressful and exhausting situation. This is an unconscious reaction that is also annoying to people who claim not to be bothered by bad acoustics.

Annoying continuing noise leads to an increase of adrenaline and production of cortisol. Cortisol is important in forming anxiety, depressions and cardiovascular disorders (McClellan & Hamilton 2010).

Good acoustics can therefore be extremely beneficial: more tranquillity and comfort. In a working environment, this leads to greater productivity, better concentration and less stress. In a restaurant it ensures intelligible conversations and less fatigue after an evening spent at the dinner table.

Good acoustics also have essential consequences at home: apart from a feeling of warmth and contentment, good acoustics also ensure better speech intelligibility, mainly during conversations that include multiple people, other sound sources (such as the TV) or hearing issues.

Every situation has different acoustic requirements. EASY Noise Control tries to adjust the acoustic design completely to the space, the users and their activities. This is the way in which we are looking to achieve the objective of a productive, healthy and comfortable (work) space together.