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What Is Airborne Noise and How Can You Reduce It?

Silent Home Hub Airborne Noise

Do you hear noises of people talking in the other room? Well…you’ve just encountered airborne noise.

But how do you stop these noise problems?

Here, we’ll help you figure out if airborne noise (or impact noise) is the culprit, and we’ll also teach you the best ways to reduce excessive sound transmission in your home.

Table of Contents

What Is Airborne Noise? — Definition and Causes

Simply put, airborne noise is sound that travels through the air.

When sound waves travel through the air collide with elements in their path (such as buildings, walls, windows, doors, and other solid structures), they cause the barrier to vibrate.

These vibrations are then transmitted through the building element, which carries the noise to the other side.

Of course, part of the sound energy gets absorbed, reflected, or lost throughout the process, so the volume at the destination will be reduced compared to the volume at the source.

Causes of Airborne Noise

Here are some examples of airborne noise in daily life:

  • People talking to each other
  • Speakers blasting music at full volume
  • A dog barking
  • Car horns honking

Airborne noise usually enters your room directly through walls or floors.

However, it can sometimes travel an indirect path using flanking elements such as windows, doors, wall cavities, floorboard gaps, and other circulation spaces.

If your home is situated in the city, for example, a car’s honk is airborne noise passing through your windows and into the rooms of your home.

Difference Between Airborne Noise and Impact Noise/Structure-Borne Noise

How do you know if you’re dealing with airborne noise or impact noise/structure-borne noise?

Basically, airborne and impact noise utilize two different mediums to transmit sound. The medium for airborne noise is AIR, while the medium for impact noise is another STRUCTURE.

Both airborne sound and impact noise can enter a room directly or indirectly (through flanking elements in your home).

What’s a real-world example?

Examples of Airborne Noise and Impact Noise

Like we mentioned earlier, music, people talking, radio/television sounds are all airborne noise. You’ll notice these are all transmitted through the atmosphere.

Some examples of impact noise or structure-borne noise include footsteps, construction work, nails being hammered on walls, and furniture being moved. These activities make a physical impact on another surface, causing intense vibrations on the floor, wall, or ceiling of your building.

Most of the time, we experience a mixture of both types of sound! Airborne sound can cause structural elements such as walls, doors, and floors to vibrate, while impact noise vibrations radiate to your ear through airborne noise.

Test It Out

You can usually tell the difference between the two types of sound by trying to feel for vibrations.

Whenever you hear loud sounds from your room, put your hand on the wall, floor, or door. If you sense a vibration, it’s most probably impact noise/structure-borne noise.

How Sound Waves Work

Did you know that sound is produced when something vibrates?

  • When an object (the source) vibrates, a sound wave is produced, which causes surrounding particles (in air, liquids, or solids) to collide against each other.
  • This continuous vibrational motion is what allows sound to transmit further until it reaches your eardrums.

In the absence of a medium (like in space!), sound cannot be transmitted at all.

Factors That Affect How Sound Travels

Solids, liquids, and gases are all mediums sound can travel through. However, they’re not equally efficient.

Particles that are densely packed together (like solids) can transmit sound quicker than loosely-packed ones like air.

Sound waves also travel faster in warmer environments since the vibrations between molecules happen much quicker.

Soundproofing Airborne Noise: A Guide to Airborne Sound Insulation

Now that you know the concept behind airborne noise, how can you improve the acoustics in your home?

You can use soundproofing products on your floor and your wall, depending on the source of your problem.

How to Reduce Airborne Noise Transmission Between Floors

Figure Out Your Floor Construction

Do you have concrete or timber floors?

Generally, concrete floors, which have more mass, are more effective at sound reduction compared to timber.

This is because sound waves have to use more energy to penetrate a thicker and denser barrier like concrete.

This also means that while timber floors often have problems with both airborne noise and impact noise, concrete floors are usually only affected by impact sound.

Choose the Right Soundproofing Materials

To reduce airborne noise transmission in your home, block out sound using an acoustic flooring system.

Typically, an acoustic floor will consist of an insulation membrane, open-cell cavity insulation, and acoustic underlays, rugs, or mats.

By layering acoustic membranes (for the subfloor), open-cell insulation (for a cavity space), and carpets/mats (for the floor), you’ll create an effective barrier against airborne noise.

These materials have high density and mass, so they can absorb sound pretty well.

For a more heavy-duty solution, you can also opt to construct a floating floor. This added layer will look thicker and bulkier, but it provides great results if you’re dealing with a large amount of noise in your rooms.

How to Soundproof a Wall Against Airborne Noise

What if all the noise is coming from the wall? Here’s what you need to do:

Check Your Wall

Figure out the source of the noise. Remember, sound can also seep through spaces around your window or door.

The best way to block out airborne noise is to add a thick layer of mass AFTER an air gap.

Start Soundproofing Your Home

Use drywall, acoustic panels, insulation, and other soundproofing products to create a thick, air-tight layer on your wall.

A good quality material like mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) can be added to layers of drywall (which are more cost-effective) for a better outcome.

For spaces around a window, door, or vent, consider using weather stripping, glue, or even soundproof curtains to reduce noise.

Final Thoughts

Airborne noise can be a pain, but fortunately, you can quickly address it with the right information and tools.

Soundproofing products will definitely help reduce unwanted sound transmission, but make sure you know which type of noise you’re trying to block so you get the right materials for the job.

Good luck with your soundproofing project!

About the Author

andrea_adams

Andrea has always been bombarded by the hustle and bustle outside her home. Living in the city doesn’t get any quieter. The never ending noise from construction, traffic, and dogs barking on the streets day in and day out drove Andrea to a breaking point.

For 3 years, Andrea committed herself to studying DIY hacks, performing soundproofing experiments, and installing noise-free solutions. Now, she lives a quiet life free of the stress from noisy environments.

She hopes to share this knowledge so that others don’t have to endure the noise reigning in their ears and live a peaceful, stress-free life.