Impact Noise vs. Airborne Noise – What's The Difference?

Impact Noise vs. Airborne Noise

Airborne noise vs. impact noise – the difference between them is often overlooked, yet it’s crucial to understand it in order to soundproof a room effectively. The former means loud sounds transmitted via air, like speech or music; the latter refers to the vibration created by two objects colliding, like a ball bouncing on the floor of the gym. If you wish to learn more about the differences between these two types of noise and the soundproofing solutions for each of them, read this article – we explain everything you need to know here.

Airborne Noise vs. Impact Noise: Definition and Examples

Starting with airborne noise, the term refers to all the sounds that travel through the air. This is similar to the way the water flows – airborne noise will move through any cracks and free spaces and stop only at hard, thick surfaces.

Examples of airborne noise include music, speech, or car honking – basically any noise that is created through vibrations in the air.

Impact noise is, on the other hand, the result of two objects colliding, thus creating soundwaves. The most common examples of it would include footsteps, a hammer hitting a nail, or even your neighbor's washing machine vibrating against a wall.

The case of speech is especially interesting here. Although, in general, it is considered airborne noise, if we go into details, it’s actually a mix of both. While vowels are indeed airborne, as they do not involve any physical contact between your speech organs, consonants are the result of two of your speech organs touching in different manners. Therefore, as you can see, the case is not always simple.

Why Is the Distinction between Airborne Noise vs. Impact Noise So Important?

As you can see in our speech example, many noises are a mix of both airborne vs. impact. Sure, you cannot soundproof your mouth – that’s why speech is classified as airborne noise, but the objects that create noise in a room may often be responsible for both types of soundwaves. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared for both types of noise.

This bears a special significance in terms of soundproofing. Airborne noise is different vs. impact noise, and so are the measures introduced to eliminate them. If you soundproof your office only against airborne noise, you will still suffer from the impact noise, and vice versa. Therefore, understanding the difference is critical.

Soundproofing vs. Impact and Airborne Noise

Now let’s discuss how you can protect yourself from both kinds of noise.

Impact Noise

When it comes to the impact noise, you should focus directly on the surfaces. There are several ways in which you can prevent vibrations from spreading, thus eliminating the problem completely – let’s take a look at them:

  • Rubber floor underlayment – The floor is the most common surface to participate in the creation of impact noise – after all, gravity makes objects fall on the ground, not on the walls. A rubber floor underlayment put between the concrete layer and panels prevents the vibrations from traveling through your floor, thus stopping any impact noise.
  • Carpets – Carpets might be a fine way to reduce echoes in an office, but they are also a good alternative to a rubber underlayment. They might not be as effective, as they will mostly serve their purpose only if an object falls directly on them, but if it does, they do a great job.
  • Sound isolation clips – These small items are excellent at blocking on-impact vibrations on the walls and ceilings. However, they are a bit difficult and timely to install, so you should consider whether impact sounds are indeed that much of a problem on these surfaces.

Airborne Noise

Now let’s look at the soundproofing materials that will work against airborne noise:

  • Acoustic curtains – These are an excellent solution, as they can be used to cover windows – sources of gaps through which airborne noise can travel into the room.
  • Acoustic panelsAcoustic panels absorb the airborne soundwaves preventing them from being reflected on the walls and ceilings and traveling further through the air.
  • Rugs and carpets – Tapestry, rugs and carpets are also effective at absorbing the soundwaves traveling mid-air and preventing them from being reflected.
  • Acoustic blankets – These can be hung in larger spaces, like warehouses, to stop the airborne noise from traveling all around the premises and to section the space.

The Takeaway

Understanding the difference: impact noise vs. airborne noise, is critical – otherwise, you won’t be able to soundproof your room, office, or warehouse effectively. It’s especially crucial to think about impact noise early on, as most of the solutions for it should be installed as a part of the construction works, whilst the materials used for airborne noise are much easier to place later on.

You may also read: Acoustic Panels vs. Blankets - Unveiling the Best Solution for Your Space

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