How acoustics affect our performance

We humans are a masterpiece of anatomy. We only have one small mistake. Our ears are set to receive 24/7. The smallest noise enters our brain via our ears and uses up more or less of our working memory. In principle, that would not be a problem. But we are confronted with a multitude of different noises every day. In order not to lose our minds, our brains are masters of filtering. The noises that are relevant to us are processed, trigger reactions or are stored. We can “skilfully ignore” the unimportant ones. However, they still need resources.

The noise level in the office

Nowadays we are exposed to a lot of noise because different noises are constantly bombarding us. In addition, the noise level in everyday life has increased significantly in recent decades. Streets full of cars, aircraft noise, advertising and much more has become an integral part of life. Most of what we hear doesn't affect us directly, we just get used to it.

Everyday office life today is also characterized by a certain volume. Phone calls from the neighbors at the table, the printer, the copier, the air conditioning or the fan, maybe a radio is still playing. It gets very loud very quickly, especially in open-plan offices. This has a massive impact on our well-being and health. It is estimated that the productivity of employees decreases by 5 to 10 percent in noisy office environments, with conversations being the biggest disruptive factor. Because our brain manages to hide many things through habituation effects, but conversations are not one of them. The language processing of the brain runs continuously and therefore needs energy.

Sound and its Effects

Permanent exposure to sound is therefore increasingly becoming a stress factor, first for the brain and then for the nervous system in general. The effects should therefore not be underestimated.  

In the meantime, tinnitus and hearing loss have become common diseases and “noise-related hearing loss” has been recognized as an occupational disease. But in addition to the physical effects, the psychological ones cannot be overlooked.

Constant exposure to noise can lead to lack of concentration, sleep disorders, circulatory diseases, high blood pressure, learning disabilities and even psychiatric illnesses.

So if companies want motivated and efficient employees, free coffee and a fruit bowl are not enough. The exhaustion caused by a constantly high noise level must be counteracted. Workrooms should have certain structural measures that counteract the development of noise. If the possibilities have been exhausted or if a company can no longer influence the construction, mobile acoustic solutions such as wall or ceiling panels, partition walls and the like can help.