Academic searches for silence



A leading academic recently appeared on a BBC Radio Scotland programme to discuss an increasingly noisy world where silence is becoming a rare commodity.

The programme Brainwaves explored the concept of silence, its perception and what can be done to improve soundscapes in noisy environments.

Dr Laurent Galbrun, from the Institute for Sustainable Building Design, contributed to the programme and described how masking sounds can be used to block out noise.

He said: “Traditionally, acoustic engineers aim at reducing noise levels as much as possible, but it is now accepted that a simple decrease of noise levels and the elimination of noise sources are insufficient to account for urban environment improvement.

“Within that context, soundscape studies have shown that pleasant sounds such as water, bird songs, bells and wind in trees can play an important role in acoustic comfort.

“Such positive sounds can be used for masking unwanted sound, in particular helping us to focus on pleasant sounds, therefore reducing noise annoyance.

“Research carried out at Heriot-Watt University has identified what types of water sounds tend to be preferred, what sound levels are appropriate, as well as how visual factors need to be taken into account in the design.

The studies examined the use of water features for masking road traffic noise in outdoor environments, as well as irrelevant speech in open-plan offices.”

You can listen to the full contribution from Dr Galbrun here. Brainwaves programme on silence is available here.