Throughout our entire evolutionary history, humans have developed and refined our complex capacity for hearing. We have developed this capacity as a strategy for self preservation, communication, as a way to find food and shelter, to find mates and care for our children, to learn and to thrive as a species.
Those of us with hearing are constantly listening to our environment, consciously and subconsciously, the soundscapes of our places making a profound impact on our psychological and physiological well-being. But we did not evolve quickly enough to cope with the amount of unwanted sound we have created.
Too much noise obstructs and diminishes the human experience. It can permanently damage our ability to hear, of course, but noise also triggers stress responses that range from depression, anxiety, and aggression to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
These costs are important in work environments, of course, but become critical in learning and healing environments.
People can’t learn when they can’t engage, hear, or retain information. Poor acoustics in healthcare centers raise stress and interrupt healing. And it follows that the acoustic experience can make or break the success of a retail or hospitality setting.
As designers, we can save the human auditory experience where we live, work, learn, heal, and play by creating exceptional soundscapes for the people who inhabit the spaces we design.
We can make quiet to improve our mental and physical health, lower blood pressure, cortisol and adrenaline levels, help our brains to regenerate, help us sleep, improve energy, reduce lost work time, learn, heal, rest.
A well-designed soundscape will:
• Support the purpose of the space
• Attract and retain people
• Increase speech clarity
• Provide speech privacy
• Boost performance and productivity
• Preserve awareness or our surroundings
• Support learning and concentration
• Create opportunities for communal communication
• Reduce distracting noise
• Provide quiet spaces for rest, focus and reflection
• Provide communal spaces to help build relationship
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