For many freelancers, consultants, and others who decide to work from the comfort and privacy of a home office, it's not uncommon to consider the value of soundproofing after the home office is set up and work begins. Most people don't consider soundproofing their home work space until noise becomes a problem. Noise abatement can be absolutely essential to establishing comfort and peace of mind when working from home. It is easy to be interrupted by the sounds of traffic and other outdoor noise, a constant flow of conversation in the home, or loud neighbors. Soundproofing can help shut out distractions, increasing the quality of your work life. Here are five reasons to consider soundproofing your home office:
Noise reduction is the most obvious reason for soundproofing. Reduced noise means fewer distractions for you, allowing one to focus more clearly on work. When it comes to earning a paycheck or simply completing personal projects that require uninterrupted focus and concentration, it makes sense to take as many steps to reduce your distractions as possible.
Soundproofing a home office involves buffering the space from outside noise while preventing noise from leaking out of the space at the same time. This is particularly important when carrying on any number of conversations that must be kept confidential. It is also essential when working from home late at night, after the children have gone to bed for example, and the need to carry on nighttime phone or Skype conversations, create or edit videos, run printers, or send or receive faxes exists.
DIY or Contractor
Although soundproofing may sound very complex, there are actually several options that can be taken to address any particular noise issues. Some are easily accomplished through a DIY weekend project; for example, you can install a noise deadening wall treatment with the help of one or two friends in just a couple of days. Others are more complex; for example, noise abatement material can be added to the studs under drywall in the office space, although removing existing drywall is required for such an application. This is something, depending on your level of experience, which you may want to hire a contractor to do. In short, some basic soundproofing can be accomplished on any budget or with any level of experience.
As a renovation to a home office, soundproofing is potentially tax-deductible. But before basing the decision to soundproof on deductibility, make sure to check with a seasoned tax professional. There are many rules regarding taxes and home offices, so it's better to be safe than sorry.
Having a soundproof office can really boost the resale value of a home. As with all renovations, make sure the amount put in to the soundproofing is something that can potentially be regained with the sale of the home. A real estate professional can assist with the math, and help determine how much value soundproofing will add to the home. In today's noisy world, soundproofing is fast becoming one of the most desirable assets to buyers.
Weighing in on all of these reasons to soundproof a home office, its important to understand that adding high quality sound deadening material or an approprite sound barrier either inside or outside is an investment in the value of any property, as well as an investment in your privacy and peace of mind. Soundproofing a home office can be done at a reasonable price, with minimum effort. The return on investment is great, in the immediate reduction or elimination of distractions that can interfere with working from home, and in the long run on a possible tax deduction and the added resale value of the home.
A persistently noisy workplace more than doubles an employee's risk of serious heart disease, suggests research published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Young male smokers seem to be particularly at risk,according to the study's findings.
The researchers base their findings on a nationally representative sample of more than 6,000 U.S. employees, aged 20 and up, who had been part of the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2004.
This study included detailed household interviews, addressing lifestyle and occupational health, medical examinations, and blood tests.
Participants were grouped into those who endured persistent loud noise at work, to the extent that it was difficult to talk at normal volume for at least three months, and those working in more comfortable surroundings.
One in five (21-percent) workers said they put up with a noisy workplace for an average of almost nine consecutive months. This group, whose average age is 40, also tended to smoke and weigh more than their peers working in quieter work environments, adding to the group's risk factors for heart disease.
Workers in persistently noisy workplaces were between two to three times as likely to have serious heart problems as their peers in quiet workplaces.
The association to heart disease was particularly strong among workers under 50, who made up more than 4,500 of the total sample. They were between three and four times as likely to have angina or coronary artery disease or to have had a heart attack.
Blood tests of these workers did not indicate particularly high levels of cholesterol or inflammatory proteins, both of which are associated with heart disease. But diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure of the artery walls when the heart relaxes between heartbeats, was higher than normal, a condition known as isolated diastolic hypertension, or IDH. This is an independent predictor of serious heart problems.
The findings suggest that those employees regularly exposed to loud noise at work were twice as likely to have IDH.
The authors speculate that loud noise day after day may be as strong an external stressor as sudden strong emotion or physical exertion, the effect of which is to prompt various chemical messengers to constrict blood flow through the coronary arteries.
Researchers conclude: "This study suggests that excess noise exposure in the workplace is an important occupational health issue and deserves special attention."
Source: British Medical Journal (BMJ)
Every year, approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise. Noise-related hearing loss has been listed as one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the United States for more than 25 years. Thousands of workers every year suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. Since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that nearly 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss. In 2009 alone, BLS reported more than 21,000 hearing loss cases.
Exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Neither surgery nor a hearing aid can help correct this type of hearing loss. Short term exposure to loud noise can also cause a temporary change in hearing (your ears may feel stuffed up) or a ringing in your ears (tinnitus). These short-term problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noisy area. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss.
When no sound barrier is in place, loud noise can also create physical and psychological stress, reduce productivity, interfere with communication and concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents and injuries by making it difficult to hear warning signals. Noise-induced hearing loss limits your ability to hear high frequency sounds, understand speech, and seriously impairs your ability to communicate. The effects of hearing loss can be profound, as hearing loss can interfere with your ability to enjoy socializing with friends, playing with your children or grandchildren, or participating in other social activities you enjoy, and can lead to psychological and social isolation.
When sound waves enter the outer ear, the vibrations impact the ear drum and are transmitted to the middle and inner ear. In the middle ear three small bones called the malleus (or hammer), the incus (or anvil), and the stapes (or stirrup) amplify and transmit the vibrations generated by the sound to the inner ear. The inner ear contains a snail-like structure called the cochlea which is filled with fluid and lined with cells with very fine hairs. These microscopic hairs move with the vibrations and convert the sound waves into nerve impulses–the result is the sound we hear.
Exposure to loud noise with no noise barrier in place can destroy these hair cells and cause hearing loss!
What are the warning signs that your workplace may be too noisy?
Noise may be a problem in your workplace if:
- You hear ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work.
- You have to shout to be heard by a coworker an arm's length away.
- You experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work.
How loud is too loud?
Noise is measured in units of sound pressure levels called decibels using A-weighted sound levels (dBA). The A-weighted sound levels closely match the perception of loudness by the human ear. Decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale which means that a small change in the number of decibels results in a huge change in the amount of noise and the potential damage to a person’s hearing.
OSHA sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. These limits are based on a worker’s time weighted average over an eight hour day. With noise, OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 decibels for all workers for an eight hour day. The OSHA standard uses a five decibels exchange rate. This means that when the noise level is increased by five decibels, the amount of time a person can be exposed to a certain noise level to receive the same dose is cut in half.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended that all worker exposures to noise should be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 decibels for eight hours to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss. NIOSH has found that significant noise-induced hearing loss occurs at the exposure levels equivalent to the OSHA PEL based on updated information obtained from literature reviews. NIOSH also recommends a three decibel exchange rate so that every increase by three decibels doubles the amount of the noise and halves the recommended amount of exposure time.
Here’s an example: OSHA allows eight hours of exposure to 90 decibels, but only two hours of exposure to 100 decibel sound levels. NIOSH would recommend limiting the eight hour exposure to less than 85 dBA. At 100 decibels, NIOSH recommends less than 15 minutes of exposure per day.
In 1981, OSHA implemented new requirements to protect all workers in general industry (e.g. the manufacturing and the service sectors) for employers to implement a Hearing Conservation Program where workers are exposed to a time weighted average noise level of 85 decibels or higher over an eight hour work shift.
Hearing Conservation Programs require employers to measure noise levels, provide free annual hearing exams and free hearing protection, provide training, and conduct evaluations of the adequacy of noise deadening materials in use unless changes to tools, equipment and schedules are made so that they are less noisy and worker exposure to noise is less than the 85 decibels.