How to be in sound health

Did you know that sound has a measurable effect on how we feel, how we live and how we work? Research over the past 40 years - and by Flexshield ourselves for the past decade - has established a strong correlation between sound and well being. In fact a recent Whitepaper compiled by Biamp Systems, a leading international provider of commercially installed audio electronics, has detailed the impact of sound on our health and our productivity. You can read the whitepaper in full, or simply read the following fascinating excerpts.

1. The estimated cost of noise pollution in Europe alone is US$30.8 billion a year.

A report on Europe in 2011 by The World Health Organisation (WHO) entitled “Burden of disease from environmental noise,” analysed the relationship between environmental noise and health. In it, they calculated the financial cost of lost work days, healthcare treatment, impaired learning and decreased productivity as a result of noise. The total they came up with – over 30 billion dollars – is staggering, considering they’re looking at just one continent.

2. Every year, noise pollution cuts a day off the life of every European

The above study also juxtaposed noise pollution to lost life expectancy. Amazingly, they worked out that every year, one million years are taken off Europe’s collective life expectancy — which averages out to a day per person.

3. There is a link between noise pollution and crime.

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. This led to a 15 percent reduction in crime, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

A similar experiment was also conducted in the UK with 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%.

4. If you can hear someone talking while you’re working, your productivity drops by as much as 66%.

Open floor-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 employed, there was a 46% improvement in employees’ concentration and a 10% increase in their short term memory.

5. High noise levels in classrooms do more than impair learning, it can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Noise affects learning too. The WHO recommends a noise level in classrooms of around 35 decibels – similar to what you’d find in a library. 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. It has also been found that at this level, a student sitting four rows from the front will only hear half of what their teacher says.

6. 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 2000 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.

7. One in two teachers have damaged their voice whilst talking over classroom noise.

As our environment gets noisier, we speak more loudly. This was demonstrated by a study of teachers published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research in 2004. This showed that a staggering 50% of teachers have suffered irreversible damage to their voices.

8. Some hospital wards are so noisy, 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 US 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 be worn. Recovering patients need sleep, and yet they are constantly disturbed by beeps, bombarded by tones and other ward sounds. On top of that, staff errors increase the greater the level of distracting noise. And finally...

9. An amazing 3% of cardiac arrest cases in Germany have been directly linked to traffic noise. The writer of the Whitepaper found this alarming fact in a 2009 press release from the Environmental Protection UK.

If you need assistance quietening your workplace, we’d be delighted to help. Simply call our friendly, professional team on 1300 799 969 and we will arrange an ONSITE WORKPLACE NOISE ANALYSIS. Alternately, click here and send us a message.