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How noise impacts your workspace

Unpacking the different effects of noise on workers

According to Worksafe Qld, exposure to noise in your work environment may cause several physiological and psychological responses. Noise can:

  • Cause hearing loss
  • Annoy and interfere with speech
  • Interfere with concentration and thought processes
  • Disturb sleep
  • Cause fatigue and aggression
  • Reduce immune response, and even
  • Lead to heart disease.

Of course, noise has different effects depending on the workplace. In this article, the Avenue Interior Systems team have curated some examples of how noise can be detrimental in different workspaces.

The effect of noise in the office

Open floorplan offices might be great for team bonding, yet they can distract workers. If you can hear someone talking while you’re working in an office, your productivity drops by as much as 66%.

A famous study published in the British Journal of Psychology in 1998 found that staff were inadvertently distracted when they could hear other people’s conversations, and this affected their ability to perform their duties. Another classic study found that noisy offices led to higher stress hormone levels and discouraged workers from engaging with their peers.

By contrast, the research found that when sound masking technology was employed, there was a 46% improvement in employees’ concentration and a 10% increase in their short term memory.

How excess noise affects classrooms

High noise levels in classrooms do more than impair learning; they can also lead to permanent hearing loss.

The WHO recommends noise levels in classrooms of around 35 decibels – similar to what you’d find in a library. Anything higher than 35 decibels can have negative impacts on learning. Unfortunately, a German study determined that the actual average classroom noise is as high as 65 decibels — and at that level, permanent hearing loss is possible.

The research shows that at this level, a student sitting four rows from the front will only hear half of what their teacher says. A 20-decibel increase in noise can delay a student’s reading level by up to 8 months.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006 interviewed 2,000 students between the ages of 9 and 10 in schools near airports in Spain, the Netherlands, and the U.K. This report showed that aircraft noise was associated with impaired reading comprehension. One in two teachers has damaged their voice while talking over classroom noise.

A study of teachers published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research in 2004 demonstrated that as our environment gets noisier, we speak more loudly, resulting in a staggering 50% of teachers suffering irreversible damage to their voices.

The effects of noise in medical facilities

Recovering patients need sleep, yet they are always disturbed by beeps, conversations and other ward sounds. On top of that, staff errors increase the higher the level of distracting noise.

Some hospital wards are so noisy, and they do more than impede healing. Patients and staff could legally require hearing protection.

Once again, the WHO recommends noise levels in hospital wards be no higher than 35 decibels. However, a study in the U.S. found the average noise level in hospitals is closer to 95 decibels — a full 10 decibels higher than the noise levels legally requiring ear protection.

How excess noise affects public spaces

Noise in public areas such as airports, libraries, restaurants etc. which can impact people’s health and wellbeing by increasing stress responses, such as spikes in blood pressure and heart rate

Talk to Avenue about soundproofing solutions for your space

Improving the acoustics within an area can increase productivity and alertness, as workers are not actively working to ignore sounds. Reducing noise will also improve speech intelligibility, meaning users can hear announcements, speeches and their colleagues, and don’t need to repeat everything they say.

If you’re looking for a solution for acoustic concerns in offices, education, retail, public spaces, hospitality, banking and medical make sure the answer is unique to your needs and not an “off the shelf solution”. Avenue Interior Systems acoustic solutions are unique to your specific need.

Download our eBook Creating Acoustically Sound Spaces today or phone us on 1300 827 177.