The Cost of Noise

On average the CDC reports that in 2007, “82% of the cases involving occupational hearing loss were reported among workers in the manufacturing sector” Hearing Loss is the most commonly recorded occupational illness in Manufacturing accounting for 1 in 9 recordable illnesses. It’s estimated, that there are 16 million people working in the Manufacturing Sector, which accounts for approx 13% if the US workforce.

Hearing loss disability results in an estimated $242 million dollars worth of workers compensation payments each year. According to As many as 95% of construction workers are exposed to high levels of noise on a daily basis. When left untreated, hearing loss can reduce earnings by as much as $30,000 a year. The top industries that have the most hearing loss claims? Construction, Carpentry, Farmers, and Mining resulting in 30 million work-related injuries each year. The machines that caused the most noise are Jackhammers, Dump trucks, Cement Mixers, Electric Saws. Plant work and Power Stations resulted in 100 DBA ( A-weighted decibels) with Sewer water and Residential Construction sites following behind between 93-99 DBA. *see how to measure noise on a construction site*

Most will argue that the primary cause for the hearing loss injuries in Manufacturing, Construction, Mining etc is that there’s a lack of educational training on how to prevent Occupational Hearing Loss. According to Mr. Neitzel’s report:

“Occupational health regulations governing the construction industry, including those pertaining to hearing conservation, are generally less comprehensive than those for the general industry. As a result, health surveillance and prevention programs for chronic diseases such as NIHL are limited in the industry. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has two regulations pertaining to hearing conservation in the construction industry. The first… set forth an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) permissible exposure limit of 90 dB, and requires a hearing conservation program (HCP) for workers whose exposures exceed this level. The second, [regulation] requires the use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) when noise exposures cannot be reduced below the Permissible Hearing Levels PEL.”


See the Story on how poor acoustics affects farmers Source: National Geographic

How to solve it


Whatever kind of boat you build, your customers will appreciate your efforts to make it quieter. Engine noise, prop cavitations, shaft whirl, all generate noise and create a vibration that can be controlled with the right noise control materials. Here’s our recommendation for a 47″ Trawler Yacht.

  • Engine Room – Use Absorber/Barrier composites. The absorber layer reduces reverberant noise. The barrier layer reduces sound transmission from the engine compartment.
  • Bulkheads – Here, you can also use an absorber and barrier. Either separately or in a composite to reduce reverberant noise and block sound.
  • Hull Structure – Treat hull and deck vibration with proper damping materials.

How to measure reverberant noise


Operators of Transportation products such as trucks, buses, trains and emergency vehicles spend their entire day in the vehicle. The major noise sources in a vehicle are the engine, accessories, road and wind noise. Noise can enter the operator and passenger compartments by a variety of paths – through the glass, dash, floor doors etc.

  • Flooring Systems – Road Noise is generated by the vehicles passage over the highway surface and resulting tire and air noise. By using a Barrier Composite you can reduce the impact of road noise on the operator and its passengers.
  • Body Panels – Large surfaces such as floor pans and door panels are prone to vibration. Typically, the greater the surface the greater the noise. Vibration damping materials applied to these surfaces reduce vibration – radiated noise.
  • Hood Liners -These can be manufactured to act both sound absorbers and Heat Shields. They can reduce the reverberant engine noise thus improving both the outdoor environment and the cab interior. They can be made with a protective, heat-resistant facing and sound-absorbent material.

Heavy Equipment

Major noise sources in heavy equipment are the engine, drive train and power take-off systems. The sound radiates throughout the environment and affects operators, bystanders, nearby businesses and individuals.

Read the blog: Tuning into Urban Noise

  • Operator’s Cab- Headliners and sidewall trim systems that incorporate sound absorbers and sound barriers can be used to block sound entering the operator’s compartment and absorb sound reflection from within the operator’s cab. (Contact us to see which facings can be used for functional and aesthetic purposes.
  • Firewall and floormat systems- Firewall composites block sound from the engine and drive train and prevent noise from entering the cab. These can be manufactured either with or without a heat shield component. Sound barriers bounded to a durable wear surface create floormats that reduce sound transmission and improve operator comfort.

Technicon Acoustics did a case study on measuring and decreasing noise in the cab of a motor grader. Click here to see the results

Contact Us

See our list of Solutions and Capabilities at and request a consultation with our Sound Solution Sales Team.

Our Favorite TED Talks about Sound and Noise

Harnessing the power of sound

Humans are wired for sound. Steve Keller, one of the world’s leading experts in the field of audio branding, explores how brands are harnessing the power of sound and music to shape our perception and influence our behavior, ultimately asking the question: How can we use these same strategies and
tactics to make our world a better place?

The 4 ways sound affects us

Playing sound effects both pleasant and awful, Julian Treasure shows how sound affects us in four significant ways. Listen carefully for a shocking fact about noisy open-plan offices.


Tinnitus Ringing of the Brain

In this talk, Josef Rauschecker illuminates the science behind tinnitus as well as the current state of treatment options.


SShhh! Sound Health In 8 Steps

Julian Treasure says our increasingly noisy world is gnawing away at our mental health — even costing lives. He lays out an 8-step plan to soften this sonic assault (starting with those cheap earbuds) and restore our relationship with sound.




Why Architects need to use their ears

Because of poor acoustics, students in classrooms miss 50 percent of what their teachers say and patients in hospitals have trouble sleeping because they continually feel stressed. Julian Treasure sounds a call to action for designers to pay attention to the “invisible architecture” of sound.


What are some of your favorite Ted Talks?

Technicon Acoustics

704.707.0421 || 4412 Republic Court, Concord, NC 28027

Introduction to Acoustics


Have you walked into a racquetball court and heard the echo as the ball strikes the wall? Or have you been in the country with snow on the ground and noticed how quiet it is. The difference in the sound between these to places is due to the degree that sound is absorbed. In the case of the racquetball court, the noise of the ball striking the wall travels to another wall and bounces off of it, travels to another wall and bounces off of it and so on. The echo is caused by the sound continually whizzing past your ear due to reflecting off another wall. In the case of being in a field with snow, your voice either continues to propagate down the field never striking anything, or strikes the snow and disappears. Whether a sound when striking an object reflects back or disappears is due to the objects sound absorption. The racquetball court typically is made of concrete painted walls. Concrete painted walls have very low sound absorption and hence, reflect. Five inches of fluffy snow, however, absorbs the sound when it strikes it.

Some materials allow sound to easily enter it. These materials are called porous. Acoustic porous materials can have a porosity greater than 90%. Porosity is the amount of volume that is just air. Common sound absorption materials are open cell foam and polyester fiber. Sound absorption is an energy conversion process. The kinetic energy of the sound (air) is converted to heat energy when the sound strikes the cells or fibers. Hence, the sound disappears after striking the material due to its conversion into heat.

We know that most sounds contain many different pitches or frequencies. A bass guitar plays low- frequency sounds while a violin plays high-frequency sounds. Low-frequency sounds have long wavelengths and high-frequency sounds have short wavelengths. A wavelength can be visualized when going to a beach. The wavelength is the distance from one wave crest to the next wave crest. In the air, a long wavelength propagates in all directions easily. That is why a single subwoofer is typically needed to fill a listening space due to the fact that subwoofers are not directional in nature. In contrast, a tweeter that emits high-frequency sounds is very directional. Reproduction of high-frequency sounds requires at least two carefully placed tweeters to produce a good stereo image of the sound. Low- frequency sound passes through materials much easier than high-frequency sounds. That’s why one can hear the constant thud of a subwoofer through the wall of the room next door. Because sound passes through materials differently at different frequencies, the sound absorption will typically change with frequency. Besides the sound absorption changing with frequency, it also changes with the thickness of the material. For the same materials, thin sections will not absorb as much low-frequency sound as will thicker pieces. Figure 1 provides absorption curves for the same material at three different thickness. The ordinate (left vertical axis) contains the absorption (alpha). The absorption can go from 0 (no absorption) to 1 (all sound is absorbed). The abscissa (horizontal axis) provides the frequency at which the absorption was measured.

1 – Figure 1. Affect of thickness on absorption

One may be wondering how sound absorption is measured. There are two main methods, one use a special room called a reverberation room and the other uses a special tube called an impedance tube. The reverberation room allows the sound to strike the material from all directions and hence is called random incidence. The impedance tubes have the sound strike the material straight on and are called normal incidence. Table 1 compares the two methods.

2 – Table 1. Comparison between Random Incidence and Normal Incidence Absorption

The Technicon impedance tube is shown below in figure 2:

Figure 2. Impedance Tube for Sound Absorption

The impedance tube consists of a speaker, tube, two microphones and material sample holder. A special sound called white noise is generated in the speaker. The white noise is composed of sound contributions from all frequency bands in the audible range. The sound travels straight down the tube and strikes the material. Some of the sound is absorbed and some are reflected back. The two microphones measure the reflected sound. From the two microphone’s signals, the sound absorption can be calculated.

From figure 1, one sees that one way of increasing the low-frequency absorption is by using a thicker material. Absorption of a non-faced porous material is called resistive. Placing a film on the surface of the material can increase the low-frequency absorption. This type of absorption is called reactive. Figure 3 compares non-faced foam with foam with an aluminized polyester face.

3 – Figure 3. Faced versus non-faced foam for same thickness

Figure 3 shows typical changes when placing a film or facing on the top surface of a porous material. The change in the sound absorption for the faced material is an increase at the lower frequency absorption and a decrease in absorption at the higher frequencies. This is due to the film now acting as a spring-mass resonator for the low-frequency peak. At the higher frequencies, the face causes the sound to reflect. Knowing how different faces can change the absorption of a material, Technicon can design the best sound absorber for our customer’s noise problem.

Sound Transmission Loss

The second technique to reduce noise is sound transmission loss. Sound Transmission Loss is abbreviated as STL. As the name sound transmission loss implies sound is blocked from transmitting through one space to another. For example, a wall in a movie theater separating one theater from the other requires high sound transmission loss to keep from hearing the gunfire, explosions, and crashes from the adjacent theater’s action movie.

There are a variety of ways of producing sound transmission loss. One way is distance. We all know that noisy machines are louder at close distances versus when farther away. When designing a school, for example, distance plays a good common sense noise control solution many times. A poor school design would place a gymnasium or cafeteria next to a library. However, in regards to machinery, distance, as a noise control solution is rarely practical.

Sound is lazy and hence will always take the easiest path to get from point A to point B. The easiest path for sound to travel is a clear unobstructed path. If you can visually see the noisy machine, there is nothing obstructing or reducing the noise from the maximum amount that you could receive. Hence, it is important not to only place something in between you and the noisy machine, but also to make sure that there is no place for that sneaky noise to slip through holes and cracks. A solution for blocking the noise from getting to you would be to place the machine in an enclosure. A well-designed enclosure will always make sound work hard to get to your ears; hence its essential to not have any holes, gaps or cracks. If ventilation is required for combustion intake and exhaust or cooling purposes, a sound silencer or labyrinth is necessary. The labyrinth lined with sound absorptive material forces the sound to strike the sound absorptive material hence causing the sound to be reduced significantly by the time it exists.

Now that the enclosure is pretty well sealed, sound can still reach you by transmitting through the enclosure walls. This is called airborne sound transmission. There are ways of increasing this sound transmission loss. The first is mass. Mass can be increased by using a thicker wall of the same material or use a more dense material. There is a relationship between sound transmission loss and weight of the barrier and this is called the mass law. The mass law states that for every doubling of the weight of the material, one can expect a 6 dB increase in the transmission loss. In addition to the mass having an effect on the transmission loss, the frequency of the sound also has a similar effect. A doubling of the frequency will create a 6-dB increase in the transmission loss. Figure 4 shows the effect of mass and frequency on sound transmission loss.

4 – Figure 4. Mass and Frequency dependence on Transmission Loss

One sees that the cost and weight of the wall must double for each 6 dB incremental improvement in transmission loss. If there are two walls and they are separated by a significant distance, each wall transmission loss is additive. This additive effect is shown in figure 5.

5 – Figure 5. Comparison between double and single wall for same total weight.

One can see from figure 5 that by adding a second wall and large air gap between the walls, the transmission loss can be dramatically increased. Double wall construction is encountered in many everyday systems. For example, in homes, drywall, stud construction is made of two sheets of drywall separated by the studs.

In the real world, the air gap between walls will be relatively small. In machinery enclosures, the gap may range from 1/4″ to 2″. The greater the gap, the more the walls behave as two separate walls instead of a single wall comprising of both walls total weight. In real-world double wall systems, a double wall resonance in the airspace occurs which reduces the transmission loss. To reduce the detrimental effect of the double wall resonance, a foam or fiber is placed in the air gap between walls. Technicon offers a variety of barrier composites. Barrier composites create a double wall system when attached to the interior wall of a machinery enclosure.

Vibration Damping

Many time’s large panels vibrate. The cause of vibration may be an engine, generator, compressor, road irregularities in vehicles or a boat hull slapping against the waves. When this occurs, the panel vibrates as a large speaker cone creating noise. This type of noise is called structural borne noise. The greater the panels move, the more air is displaced, the louder the sound. The vibration creates resonance in the panel causing it to move. Resonance is a natural phenomenon that can cause a mechanical structure to vibrate violently if the panel is excited at the same frequency that a resonance occurs. To keep a panel from resonating violently, the panel must be damped. Steel or fiberglass panels by themselves are stiff and elastic, causing them to vibrate a long time when struck. Hence, steel and fiberglass have very little damping. Hence, to damp the panels to reduce resonant vibrations, damping must be applied to the surface of the panels. Damping materials can be applied as a trawled on a compound or as sheets with an adhesive backing. The key feature of a damping material is that they are viscoelastic. Viscoelastic materials require energy to be extended and compressed. This is exactly where we want the vibration energy from the panels to go, into the viscoelastic materials and then dissipated as heat.

The amount of damping necessary to effectively reduce the panel vibrations is dependent on the panel thickness and material type. If one overdamps the panel, this adds extra cost and weight, hence, there is an optimal amount of damping for a given panel material and thickness. There are test standards to measure the damping loss factor of the damping material. The test standard performed at Technicon is ASTM E756. A picture of the test fixture for measuring the damping loss factor is given in figure 6.

Figure 6. Damping Test Rig with Sample


The damping test rig consists of a bar made from the panel material with the damping material bonded to it. Like the impedance tube, a white noise signal is fed to a vibration exciter at the top of the bar. This causes the bar to resonate. At the bottom of the bar, a vibration pickup measures the bar’s resonance. The transfer function is defined as the output vibration response of the bar divided by the input vibration excitation is calculated. This is shown in figure 7.

6 – Figure 7. Transfer Function of Damping Bar

The peaks in figure 7 are excited resonance in the bar. The broader the resonance peaks, the greater the damping. The composite damping loss factor is calculated by the formula:

Composite Loss Factor = [fh(-3 dB)- fl(-3 dB)]/fr


fr = Frequency at resonant peak

fh(-3 dB) = Higher Frequency at -3 dB below resonant peak

fl(-3 dB) = Low Frequency at -3 dB below resonant peak.

7 – Acoustics Lab for Reverberation Testing

See how we can assist you with your Acoustic and Thermal needs.



Acoustic Design for Dementia Care Facilities

People with Dementia are particularly affected by Acoustic Environments. Overexposure to non regulated noise can cause confusion, illusions, frustration, and agitation. In this blog, we’re going to explore the world of noise and how it affects those with dementia. We’re also going to show you how not designing for Acoustics can contribute to increased levels of agitation and aggression among residents who have dementia.

Dementia Facility
Dementia Facility

What is Dementia?

Dementia is not a single disease. It is a term used to describe a syndrome associated with more than 100 different diseases that are characterized by the impairment of brain functions, including language, memory, perception, personality and cognitive skills. Vascular Dementia which occurs after a stroke is the second most common type of dementia.   10 common signs are:

  • Memory
  • Communication
  • Language
  • Ability to focus and pay attention
  • Reasoning and Judgment
  • Visual perception
Man with Dementia

Did you know that Dementia affects young people as well? Dementia is not just a disease of old age. Younger-onset (also known as early-onset) Alzheimer’s affects people younger than age 65. Up to 5 percent of more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s have younger-onset. Source: ALZ.ORG

The Impact of Noise


The ability to have a normal conversation typically isn’t a problem. However, high-frequency pitches become less audible along with sensitivity to lower frequency sound around the age of 40. This means a lesser chance of comprehension due to background noise. Most older people learn to compensate by reading lips and increased attention to what they can hear. This can pose a problem with someone suffering from dementia.

The physical and mental effect

Did you know that being surrounded by an unidentified noise makes a person suffering from dementia feel like their living in cacophony all the time? Unidentifiable noise makes a person with dementia feel even more disconnected from their environment. See the Experience for yourself:

Hearing, out of all of the senses is the one that has the greatest impact on people with dementia when it comes to their quality of life. With hearing being linked to balance, the risk of falls is even greater due to increase disorientation as a result of those diagnosed with dementia trying to orientate themselves in an overstimulated environment. Having high noise levels can lead to anxiety due to stress. Including but not limited to:

  • Confusion
  • Increased heart rate
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Fatigue

It has been demonstrated that noise can also impair immune function. See the conclusion of Immune Alterations Induced by Chronic Noise from

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Adopting EAT ( Environmental Audit Tool) and the 10 Design Principals

A tool selected to compare with TESS-NH was the most recent version of the Environmental Audit Tool (EAT) developed in an NSW Department of Health project on adapting wards in small, regional hospitals for long-term use by people with dementia. The EAT comprises 72 items that have been selected to exemplify a set of design principles first used in the development of the units for the confused and disturbed elderly (CADE) built by the NSW Department of Health in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Source: tool.aspx According to the EAT tool, the 10 Principals state that the environment should:

  1. Be Safe
  2. Be Small
  3. Be simple with good visual access
  4. Have unnecessary stimulation reduced
  5. Have helpful stimuli highlighted
  6. Provide for planned wandering
  7. Be familiar
  8. Provide opportunities for a range of social interactions from private to communal
  9. Encourage links with the community
  10. Be domestic in nature, providing opportunities for engagement in the ordinary tasks of daily living.

Controlling Airborne and Structure Borne Noise

Absorber Foam by Technicon Acoustics

Things like persistent intermittent noise (tap dripping) can trigger unpleasant memories, increase agitation and cause annoyance. There are sources that can potentially generate unwanted noise that should be considered during the planning and design stage. For example:

External: Road Traffic, Rail Traffic, Leaf Blowers, Unamplified Entertainment, Dogs Barking and Service Areas

Mechanical: Air Conditioners, Pumps, Air Compressors, Hydraulic Pipework, and Lifts.

Safety Systems: Medical Emergency Alarms. Wander -Guard Systems, Trolley Wheels, Dish Washing Machines, Photocopiers and Vacuum Cleaners.

Controlling Reverberation is important to ensure speech intelligibility is achieved, increase privacy and reduce agitation and confusion.

Recommended Reverberation Times for Different Spaces

Sleeping Areas : 0.5

Common Areas: < 1.0

Staff work areas: 0.6 to 0.8

Corridors and lobbies: 0.6 to 0.8

Recommended Design Sound Level ( DBA)

Sleeping Areas: 35

Common Areas: 40

Toilets and Bathrooms: 45

Kitchen and service areas: 45

Staff work areas: 40

Corridors and lobbies: 40

Bedrooms should not open directly onto common areas such as the dining room, activity areas or large social spaces. Generally, the residents will be older and unable to open and close heavy acoustic doors fitted with acoustic seals. Tile flooring should not be used as residents can slip and fall and it increases noise should something fall on the floor. Timber or our floor mats can be used to reduce noise transmission and decrease the risk of a fall for staff and residents.

Did you know that textured floors can also assist with planned wondering? Acoustic Panels and Floors can be designed in bright colors and textures to assist with people diagnosed with Dementia to make a less confusing environment.

Having an acoustically absorbent ceiling recommended along with soft furnishings such as curtains and upholstered furniture can also control Reverberation. Keep in mind your HVAC equipment and ductwork and the recommended design sound levels mentioned above. Bigger isn’t always better. Smaller rooms can assist with lowering reverberation. Remember, most of your residents will have hearing aids. So increased television noise is a common occurrence.

Dementia Care Facilities typically have two types of kitchens, domestic style, and commercial style. Commercial style tends to be the loudest. You can reduce this with a Slip Resistant Rubberized flooring instead of tiles, and acoustic absorbent ceiling tiles. Incorporate acoustic attenuation into the exhaust systems and purchasing low noise equipment like the dishwasher and blenders.


This paper was created to assist you with Acoustic Design for those diagnosed with Dementia. If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call on how we can assist you with your design and prototype needs.