The cocktail party effect and acoustic comfort in buildings

Acoustic comfort in buildings is more important than you think

Have you ever experienced the following: You’re at a networking event and can’t hear your fellow attendee, and after already asking for her to repeat twice and still missing the gist you resort to a polite laugh and nod. A moment goes by and your heart sinks as, evidently, she is waiting for an answer to her question. The question has long fled and is echoing around the walls with the rest of the din in the room. And you’re caught red faced employing the “smile n’ nod” technique because it was just too noisy in there to hear what was said.

The above experience is not uncommon. If online restaurant and bar reviews are anything to go by, many people have experienced similar awkward exchanges at a variety of venues. It’s what happens when acoustic comfort in buildings is only considered a little too late in the process.

The Cocktail Party Effect

This ear pounding effect is not only from the always present “lubricated and loud” table but primarily from the acoustic reverberance (echo) in the room. The fashion of raw, bare architecture and interior design (think polished concrete, steel, “scandustrial”) may be visually appealing but is prone to reflect sound.

When the background noise, combined with reflected sound is louder than the volume at which your closest fellow diner can yell, speech is no longer intelligible. A typical conversation between two people is about 60 decibels, and restaurants often range from 80dB to 100dB. It’s no wonder we are fighting to be heard!

The sister phenomenon of this acoustic reverberance effect is the psychological occurrence; aptly named Cocktail Party Effect in which your brain attempts to focus on the speaker and ignore the background noise. Studies show that you are likely to miss valid information during this set of circumstances.

Your brain can only do so much, it may be time to explore treatment options especially when maximising acoustic comfort in buildings.

Acoustic solutions for acoustic comfort in buildings

Options to keep reverberance in control:

  1. Apply a “man bun only” policy for staff and patrons to fulfil your acoustic dampening requirements with the noise dampening material; luscious locks.

Or, and this is much easier and aesthetically pleasing:

  1. Enlist the help of a specialist acoustic consultant to design beautiful and effective solutions to create an atmosphere of intimacy and foster great conversation.

Don’t let your acoustics contribute to the Cocktail Party Effect. Speak to us about your needs today.

Contact us to discuss your next project