Sound waves can build quickly in any busy space. When we talk, we instinctively adjust our volume to account for ambient and background noise and, in today’s world, there is always an electrical device humming somewhere. Once we try and make ourselves heard over that, the next person has to talk even more loudly and, before we know it, we’re creating quite a din.

This kind of sonic situation can most commonly be seen or heard when we socialise in pubs and restaurants but can cause significant issues for productivity and wellbeing in office spaces, schools, and even in the home. Constant and escalating noise can be oppressive, distracting and even damaging to the hearing, and can cause excessive increases to stress levels when lengthy periods are spent in such environments.

The benefits of sound absorption

Certain types of material, when compressed, are useful for absorbing sound waves. When these materials are used as sound absorption tools – such as panels – they effectively remove the unnecessary, excessive noise from a space, allowing for specific sounds such as voice or music, to be heard with greater clarity. To that end, there are several benefits to the use of sound absorption in any noisy space:

· Reduced risk of hearing loss

When we are consistently exposed to high levels of noise, regularly, and over a long period of time, permanent hearing damage can be caused. By reducing the amount of background noise in a space, voice levels remain lower, and the overall decibel rating of the environment is kept in a more manageable range.

· Reduced stress

Loud environments induce stress, because we have to work so much harder to both discern specific sounds and be heard ourselves. Regular exposure can increase stress levels over time to problematic levels, contributing to issues of health and wellbeing. The impact of this can be reduced with the use of sound absorption technology.

· Reduced distraction

It is very difficult to concentrate in noisy environments – even when the noise in question is essentially background noise pollution. When the environment in question is a workplace, this can create a negative impact on productivity, as well as the overall long term health and wellbeing of the workforce. Sound absorption can help reduce this distraction.

Does sound absorption work?

Sound absorption can be highly effective in reducing overall noise in an environment and in improving the clarity of specific sounds as a result. The level of efficacy of sound absorption is impacted by different factors, however.

· Material

Sound absorption tools, including panels, baffles, tiles and rafts, are most commonly constructed of materials like open cell foam, fibre glass, or mineral wool. These materials are compressed into a high density object, and sometimes covered in fabric. The softness of the surface also contributes to the sound absorption provided by the tool, as does the thickness of the compressed material. The thicker it is, the more sound will be absorbed. It is the case, then, that the quality of the sound absorption product can potentially impact its efficacy.

· Coverage

The efficacy of sound absorption in any given space is significantly impacted by the coverage of the sound absorption product. For example, if you line the space entirely – floor, walls and ceiling – with sound absorbing material, then you will deaden all noise. This might be desirable in an environment such as a recording suite, but in all other circumstances, this is likely to be too effective, and voices will be difficult to understand. By contrast, too little coverage will result in inadequate sound absorption. For optimum effect, you need to consider the noise level in the space, and how much reduction you actually require. In other words, you need to determine the level of efficacy needed, and plan your sound absorption solution accordingly.

Spaces that include no sound absorbing materials at all – that is, spaces with hard, solid surfaces as walls and ceilings – fill with reverberating noise as the sound waves are reflected back into the room, multiple times. By adding panels made of sound absorbing materials, those sound waves penetrate the panels and cause vibrations among the fibres. These vibrations then safely turn the sound energy into heat energy due to the friction caused, and this heat energy quickly and naturally dissipates.

Understanding the science behind sound absorption helps us understand the impact that the quality and thickness of materials used, and the coverage achieved with the panels can have on their efficacy. By that same token, the placement and angle of sound absorption panels can also be seen to have an impact. For example, baffles or rafts that are installed in parallel with the ceiling or walls will produce a different effect than ‘flaps’ mounted on articulated arms, or ‘3D,’ angular wall or ceiling panels. This is because the angled surface will offer a tilted surface, absorbing more sound over that given space.

Help from the Muffle team

The acoustic and soundproofing arena can be confusing, with lots of different elements to consider in both your space, and the products that might be suitable. In order to find the most cost-effective and appropriate sound absorption products for your sonic situation, it is important to get advice and guidance from experts such as the Muffle team. Working to provide a great service focused on straightforward, jargon-free information and attention to detail, the Muffle team is highly skilled in all areas of sound and acoustical management, and can ensure that you find the products you need.

Muffle strives to source only those acoustic and soundproofing products that are innovative in design, and suitable for the demands and requirements of today’s spaces. That means durability, as well as construction that reflects the importance of environmental concerns. In this way, Muffle customers can resolve their sound issues while supporting ethical commercial commitments, and still ensure that their acoustic management project is economically viable.

Contact Muffle today to find out more about the efficacy of sound absorption, and whether it is the right solution for your space.