Noise pollution is an increasing problem in modern life today. With so much construction, yardwork, music, television, traffic, and other noisy things going on around us all the time, it seems like the only place that sweet silence can be found anymore is to run away into the woods, or take refuge in the white noise of a beach on vacation. It seems that part of the price we pay for having so many machines and forms of entertainment all around us is the constant noise they create.
Research by the World Health Organization has even discovered that exposure to noise pollution consistently can be a risk factor for various seemingly unrelated health problems. Connections to poor work performance and overall stress have also been seen.
Likewise, to many people the quality of sound in a room is a mystery, and various forms of entertainment, conferences, stores, or other public spaces may have unpleasant, echoing, or distorted sound quality which reduces their enjoyment.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to reduce or even eliminate these problems in the spaces in which we spend our lives, and all that’s required is to understand and utilize the study of acoustics, or how sound bounces around, and how it can be stopped or stunted.
2 Categories of Acoustical Interventions
The first thing you should know about applied acoustics is the distinction between acoustical treatments and soundproofing. Acoustical treatments are a way of improving the quality of sound, such as by preventing it from bouncing around and creating interfering wave patterns in a home theater. Soundproofing, as most people know, is a way of simply reducing sound as much as possible, particularly sound coming into or going out of a particular space.
These are two completely distinct concepts, and there’s not much overlap, so learning this difference is step one.
All About Soundproofing
In the same way that you can seal a boat to make it water-tight, soundproofing is like sealing a space to make it “sound-tight”. It is about creating a sound divide between inside and outside, and can be very good for keeping out unwanted traffic, or keeping in confidential conversations.
Just as with thermal insulation for a house, it’s important to seal every little nook and cranny, to truly keep sound in or out. Everyone knows that if you have gaps around your windows or doors, this will allow the passage of air in and out, and with it, changes in temperature. When you leave similar gaps in your soundproofing, you’ll likewise get sound leakage, hence the need for proper soundproofing expertise.
Even the slightest crack can reduce the soundproofing of a room by as much as half, believe it or not, no matter how many layers of soundproofing material are in the walls.
Fixing Sound Leaks
The easiest leaks to fix are doors and windows, as there are various kits and products that can be used, or even specially made sound-proofing doors and windows.
For walls themselves, some type of modification is typically required. The problem with walls is their being too thin, not dense enough, and having sound-conducting studs between the wall panels. What’s needed is to make them thicker and denser, which requires some structural renovations/improvements.
By inserting alternating sound-blocking and sound-absorbing materials, you can drastically reduce the sound that can travel through a wall, in addition to dealing with doors and windows. This is a minor home construction project that is best handled by professionals. There are also other ways to accomplish soundproofing to a lesser degree, such as adhesive soundproofing materials which can be applied between drywall layers. Underlays for floors can also be installed, which prevents sound from escaping or coming in from beneath.
All About Acoustical Treatment
Acoustical treatment is all about improving sound quality, and this consists of getting the right ratio between sound absorbers and sound diffusers, which are typically panels or other elements on walls or in rooms. This depends on the shape and structure of a room, and where the sound is typically coming from, such as speakers or a stage, or if it is simply ambient noise such as in an office environment.
We’ve written more extensively on this topic here, so feel free to take a look for more detail.
There’s Always a Solution
While every space and acoustical situation is different, there is always a solution, and usually more than one, at various price points. Whatever your individual needs, we are happy to consult with you on the products which would best create the sound quality, and/or containment which you need.