Airborne Sound – What is It and How Can We Help Reduce It

Airborne Sound – What is It and How Can We Help Reduce It

Airborne sound is the transmission of sound from a noise source to a receiver through the air. It is the most common form of noise we encounter on a daily basis and is generated by a variety of sources, including voices, music, machinery, vehicles, and other sources that produce air vibrations.

When a sound source generates vibrations, it alters the ambient air’s pressure. These pressure variations, known as sound waves, travel through the air and are detected as sound by our hearing or other receiving surfaces. This transmission of sound through the air is referred to as airborne noise.

Airborne noise can be further divided into two distinct classes:

Direct Sound: Direct sound is sound that travels from the noise source to the receiver without significant obstructions or reflections. For instance, when you hear a person speaking directly to you or a nearby musical instrument, you are perceiving direct airborne sound.
Reflected Sound: Reverberant/reflected sound is the sound that reaches the recipient after rebounding off of the environment’s surfaces. Sound waves can refract, diffract, or scatter when they encounter obstacles such as walls, ceilings, and floors. These reflections can cause the sound to arrive at the receiver via multiple paths and at various moments, resulting in a complex sound field. In enclosed spaces, where sound waves ricochet off surfaces and create echoes or reverberation, reflected sound is of particular importance.

Direct and Reverb Sound
Airborne noise can be a problem in residential buildings, offices, schools, theatres, and public spaces, where sound insulation and control are required to preserve acoustic comfort and privacy. Among the strategies for combating airborne sound are:

Sound Insulation: Increasing the sound insulation properties of the building envelope, including walls, floors, ceilings, and windows, can aid in reducing the transmission of ambient noise. This requires the use of materials with a high sound transmission loss and the sealing of any small openings and holes that could enable sound to escape.
Absorption: Sound-absorbing materials, such as acoustic panels, ceiling tiles, and wall coverings, can help reduce the reflection of sound waves and regulate reverberation, thereby enhancing the acoustic quality of a space and decreasing the perception of airborne noise.

Acoustic Panels

Noise Control: Implementing noise control measures at the source, such as the use of peaceful equipment, the installation of attenuators or silencers, or the isolation of noise-generating machinery or HVAC systems can help reduce the overall level of airborne noise.
Room Design: Room design factors, such as optimising the layout, minimising hard and reflective surfaces, and implementing sound barriers or diffusers, can assist in controlling the propagation and impact of airborne noise within a space.

By addressing airborne noise, it is possible to create more comfortable and conducive environments, safeguard privacy, improve communication, and enhance the overall acoustic quality in a number of different settings.

If you or someone you know has an issue with Airborne Sound, please contact a member of the team and we will be happy to assist.

If you missed our last post on Reverberation, click here

Stayed tuned for next-week’s blog on Impact Sound.