Whitepaper reveals the staggering cost of noise pollution – sound has a measurable effect on how we feel, how we live, and how we work. Research over the past 40 years confirms the strong correlation between sound and wellbeing.
A recent whitepaper compiled by Biamp Systems – a leading international provider of commercially installed audio electronics – details the impact of noise on our health and our productivity.
A 2011 World Health Organisation (WHO) report on Europe called Burden of disease from environmental noise analysed the relationship between environmental noise and health. The financial cost of lost workdays, healthcare treatment, impaired learning and decreased productivity as a result of noise was calculated at over $30 billion. That’s a staggering amount considering they’re looking at just one continent.
The WHO study also connects noise pollution to lost life expectancy. Amazingly, they worked out that every year, one million years disappear from Europe’s collective life expectancy – an average of one day per person.
As an experiment, the Californian city of Lancaster installed a sound system that played soothing birdsong along a half-mile stretch of a busy main road. The music led to a 15% reduction in crime, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.
A similar experiment in the UK had even more spectacular results. The Independent reported that when the London Underground played classical music at a crime-heavy Tube station, robberies fell by 33% while assaults on staff dropped by 25%.
Open-plan offices might be great for team bonding; however, they can distract workers. 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. Conversely, another study found that when sound masking technology was in place, there was a 46% improvement in employees’ concentration and a 10% increase in their short-term memory.
Noise affects learning too. The WHO recommends a noise level in classrooms of around 35 decibels. A student sitting four rows from the front will only hear half of what their teacher says. Noise impacts on primary students explain the complication in more detail and suggest solutions.
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 UK. This report showed an association between aircraft noise and poor reading comprehension.
As our environment gets noisier, we speak more loudly, as a study of teachers published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research in 2004 showed. The study found that a staggering 50% of teachers have suffered irreversible damage to their voices. Noise impacts on teachers explain where the noise generates from and how to stop further damage.
While the WHO recommends noise levels in hospital wards be no higher than 35 decibels, a US study found that the average noise level in hospitals is closer to 95 decibels! That’s a full 10 decibels higher than the noise levels legally requiring ear protection.
Recovering patients need sleep, and yet they are always disturbed by beeps and bombarded by tones and other ward sounds. On top of that, staff errors increase the higher the level of distracting noise. Our commercial acoustics division has more information on noise and its impacts on health.
The whitepaper’s author discovered this alarming fact in a 2009 press release from the Environmental Protection UK.
The Flexshield Group Pty Ltd – Flexshield, Avenue Interior Systems and AcousTech – have noise control solutions to improve industrial and commercial workspaces. Implementing soundproofing solutions will protect employees, patients and students from the unseen threat of hearing damage.