Exploring Your Noise Control Options

The world today is noisier than it ever has been. Not only can these noises be distracting, but they can be incredibly disruptive and even bad for our health! After constantly being exposed to sounds from all different frequencies and from all different sources, our hearing can begin to suffer because of it. Fortunately, there is a variety of noise control options available for the home, the workplace, for industrial settings and more.

Understanding How Sound Moves

Sound is a wave of energy which has the ability to travel through the air, water, and through solid objects. When these sound waves reach our eardrums, it causes them to vibrate. This vibration is what we are able to hear.

The sounds that we hear every day reach our ears in one of two ways:

a)      The sound can be airborne, or

b)      The sound can be structure-borne

An example of sounds which are air-borne is a jackhammer at a nearby construction site. These sounds are radiated from a source and then travel through the air. Structure-borne sound travels through a solid material before we are able to hear it (such as your upstairs neighbors’ heavy footsteps on the ground above). This type of noise is also frequently referred to as being impact noise.

How Decibel Levels can be Reduced in Buildings

There are three properties of sound:

  1. Frequency (Measured in hertz or Hz)
  2. Wavelength (The distance between the beginning and the end of a sound wave’s cycle)
  3. Amplitude (How loud we perceive a sound to be)
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Amplitude is measured in decibels or db. The tools and materials developed by sound control services largely focus on controlling dB levels.

Products That Can Help with Noise Control

When looking into your options for noise control within the home, at work, or even within a massive manufacturing plant, there are a number of different options available to you:

Wooden Acoustic Panels

Best For: Conference rooms, meeting rooms, reception areas (any area where an echo would be unwanted)

How Are They Made

Acoustic panels consist of three different parts:

  1. The absorptive filling
  2. A rigid frame
  3. Transparent covering

How Do They Work

Contrary to popular belief, wooden acoustic panels are not soundproof. Soundproof panels work by blocking sound while acoustic panels work by absorbing the sound. Sound absorption products like acoustic panels are given a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) rating while Sound Blocking materials are given a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating.

Unlike sound blocking treatments, acoustic panels are designed to help dampen the reverberations and echoes within a room. They also are able to reduce any sound that is reflected inside a room. Because of this, they deliver a soundproofing effect without actually being soundproof. They are able to absorb echoes and make a space seem quieter than it actually is.

Noise Control Curtains

Best Uses: Numerous industrial and environmental applications (such as enclosed areas where punch presses, pumps, blowers and compressors are being used)

How Are They Made

Different noise control curtains may be constructed differently. Typically there is a heavy level of mass-loaded vinyl or “MLV” sandwiched between two panels of quilted fibreglass. The thicker the fibreglass, the greater the noise control effect you will receive. This type of curtain typically has an ATC rating between 25 to 30.

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How Do They Work

Often referred to as flexible building blocks, noise control curtains are able to block very loud sounds in a small space. They are held up by heavy duty frames or tracking systems that are able to support their weight. They are typically used to help reduce the noise generated from industrial machinery.

Acoustic Tiles

Best Uses: Large public areas such as concert halls and theaters

How Are They Made

Acoustic tiles come in a variety of different materials and finishes. Some different types include:

  • Mineral Fibre Tiles: These tiles are created using a high-density mineral fibre pulp which is then formed into tiles
  • Fibreglass Ceiling Tiles: Strands of glass fibre are formed into tiles
  • Recycled Content Tiles: These tiles are created by using recycled ceiling tiles
  • Wood Ceiling Tiles: An acoustic blanket is adhered to the back of these tiles which are made of a wood veneer that has been mounted on a hard backing panel. Many are preformed to increase the tiles acoustical effectiveness
  • Metal Ceiling Tiles: Thin perforated sheets of metal are preformed into ceiling tiles

How Do They Work

Acoustic tiling is typically suspended from a grid ceiling that has been installed on the ceiling, or they may be affixed to the surface of a wall. The tiling is able to make the surface of the ceiling or wall softer, which then reduces the reverberations and echoes that harder surfaces produce.

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The goal of acoustical tile is to optimize the sound quality of a sound being produced in the area where he tiling has been installed. It has also proven to reduce unwanted sound transmission coming from outside of an area. Given how the tiling can be customized in shape, color and size, they are being used more frequently in residential applications.

Acoustic Underlay

Best Uses: Floors that receive a lot of traction and are above noise sensitive areas

How Are They Made

Acoustic underlays often come in a variety of layers and thickness levels to cater to different noise control needs. A basic acoustic underlay is made by sandwiching a layer of polyester matting (the sound absorption product) between two layers of rubber sheeting.

How Do They Work

This type of noise control helps absorb the vibrations that result from the ground being tread upon The dampening of the vibrations helps dissipate the sound of any footfalls as well as any other vibrational noises (such as operating equipment).

Many homeowners or those living in multilevel residential accommodations choose to have acoustic underlay for two reasons: for noise control and for increasing their floor’s thermal insulation. It also comes with the benefit of providing a homeowner with a softer surface to walk on.

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