What We Measure: Noise (db)

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January 23, 2022

In offices and schools, irritating noise can come from all kinds of sources: air conditioning, ringing phones, traffic, nearby construction and – most especially – from other people’s conversations. Ambient noise can make it hard for employees and school children to concentrate and get things done.

Productivity can plummet
Noise can affect the health and productivity of your workspace. Based on a study by Cornell University, increased illness and lower job satisfaction are associated with the negative impact of noise. Although background noise can drown out distractions, too much noise can cause stress and undermine short term memory, reading comprehension, and willingness to help or engage with others.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that noise should be controlled below 85 dBA to minimize workplace induced hearing loss. While typical open office plan noise levels of 60 to 65db are far below that, it is loud enough to impede concentration and effective collaboration.


Noise hampers education
Children are more sensitive to noisy environments as they’re still developing language skills. Excessive noise impacts their ability to understand teachers’ verbal instructions and absorb written information. One study of European elementary schools found that a 20dB increase in traffic or aircraft noise could delay a 9–10-year-old’s reading age by up to eight months. It has also been discovered that noise is connected to the amount of stress hormones and high blood pressure on children. Research indicates that children do not become accustomed to noise and the harm it causes does not reduce over time.


Optimize the indoor environment
Awair Omni tracks noise levels in your space and can give you insight into how indoor activities or sound sources are affecting the health and productivity of your space.