The Effects of Positive and Negative Sound

Ensuring effective sound transfer measures

Ensuring effective sound transfer measures are in place is the crucial first step to controlling ‘noise’ that could have damaging consequences. Negative sound, or ‘noise’, can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. However, studies show positive sounds can be the opposite. It has been proven that the sounds of nature have a restorative influence and help to fight stress.

The research

In 1984, research conducted by Social Scientist Werner Ulrich demonstrated that hospitalised patients whose windows faced a park recovered faster than those who faced a brick wall. Since then, scientists have compared natural environments with urban environments to study the effect they have on physiological stress responses. Ulrich suggests that natural environments help induce positive emotional states and sustained attention.

Presenting at the American Acoustical Society conference in May 2016, Dr Jonas Braasch conducted tests on 12 participants that featured a different soundscape in the background; office sounds muffled by white noise, office sounds masked with the sound of 'flowing water in a mountain stream', and office sounds with no masking noise.

Braasch's findings

Braasch’s findings showed that when listening to the natural sounds, the workers not only performed better on the task, but also reported feeling more positive about their environment than in the other sessions.

Braasch also states that although the natural sounds provided a positive response, he believes that replacing nature sounds with a favoured music selection will also return positive results in a workplace. With people having different tastes and requirements, it's safe to say there is no 'one size fits all' solution. However, this suggests that designers and architects need to consider what negative noise building inhabitants are exposed to. Ensuring effective sound transfer measures are in place is a crucial first step to blocking out external 'noise' that could have damaging consequences.

When approaching the sound control of a space, the purpose of the room must be considered. Conducting a thorough consultation with acoustic designers at the design stage can help create a space that promotes wellbeing, health, and productivity by protecting the inhabitants from unwanted noise through insulation and reverberation control.


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