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Enhancing therapeutic outcomes in healthcare design: Seven key benefits of biophilic soundscapes

A happy looking woman lying in a hospital bed with soundscape sound waves floating in the background

In 1984, Ulrich’s famous study found that patients whose windows faced a park recovered faster compared with those looked onto a brick wall. Since then, many thousands of pieces of research have demonstrated that nature can positively affect human health.

Reduced physiological stress

Hospitals are inherently stressful places, with nervous patients, worried families and busy staff.

This stress is exacerbated by noise. Unpleasant or unwanted sounds like rattling trolleys, overheard conversations, slamming doors and bleeping machines can all be perceived as mini threats, putting people in a constant state of fight or flight.

Natural sounds calm the sympathetic nervous system, reducing fight or flight responses.Biophilic soundscapes significantly help with physiological symptoms of stress. They calm the sympathetic nervous system, reducing fight and flight responses.

Specifically, biophilic soundscapes can:

- Reduce heart-rate [2, 3, 4]

- Calm and regulate breathing [2, 3]

- Reduce muscle tension [4]

- Reduce physiological arousal as measured through skin conductance response [5, 6]

Emotional wellbeing

As well as reducing physiological symptoms of stress, biophilic soundscapes uplift mood and improve emotional wellbeing.

Natural sounds encourage positive feelings of:

- Comfort [7]

- Safety [7]

- Motivation [8]

- Escape from everyday concerns [9]

- Calm and relaxation [9, 10]

These positive feelings also apply to visually impaired patients, who experience positive emotional states from natural sounds such as pleasure, freedom and reduced vulnerability. [11, 12]

Pain management

Amazingly, biophilic soundscapes can significantly reduce perceived pain levels and the need for pain medication. [13, 14]


Good sleep is essential for patient recovery and mental health.

One of the biggest issues with hospital noise is its detrimental effect on sleep. Beeping machines, rattling trolleys and overheard conversations all disrupt sleep as essential activities continue into the night.  

Better sleep quality

Natural sounds create a non-threatening atmosphere conducive to sleep that can enhance sleep quality for hospital patients. [15]

Natural sounds create a non-threatening atmosphere conducive to sleep.

Fewer disruptions

Biophilic soundscapes can also minimize disruptions to sleep through sound masking.

Natural soundscapes can be engineered to be highly effective “sound maskers” that minimise disruptions in a way that’s subjectively preferred to traditional masking. [16] Moodsonic’s research shows that our biophilic soundscapes can minimise distractions in open spaces by 85-90%.

Connection to the outside world

Transporting patients to serene environments

Biophilic soundscapes provide a positive, gentle distraction by transporting patients away to serene outdoor settings. [17] This sense of “being away” and the feelings of soft fascination that natural soundscapes evoke are central to the theory of Attention Restoration and allows patients valuable time to rest and reflect.

Cueing circadian rhythms

Soundscapes can also synchronize our bodies with the outside world. Just like natural light, natural sounds can cue circadian rhythms (our body's internal clock). [18] Circadian rhythms are important for sleep and physical and mental health.  


Privacy is an important consideration in healthcare.

From a legal perspective, healthcare providers have an obligation to ensure patient privacy and overheard conversations are a part of this.

Patients also feel more comfortable in environments that have acoustic privacy.  

Increasing acoustic privacy

Biophilic soundscapes can improve privacy through sound masking; natural soundscapes can be engineered to be highly effective “sound maskers” that reduce the intelligibility of conversations in a way that’s subjectively preferred to traditional masking. [16] Moodsonic’s research shows that our biophilic soundscapes can minimise speech intelligibility in open spaces by 85-90%.


Creating productive spaces helps patients who are trying to focus on activities like reading and staff as they process paperwork and dispense medication.

Disruptive noise reduces productivity by anywhere between 4–66%. [16] It impacts concentration reading comprehension, memory, task motivation, creative thinking, logical reasoning, and communication. Once we’ve been distracted, it typically takes 23 minutes to re-engage with the task at hand. [19]

Cognitive performanceResearch suggests that people perform best on focus tasks while listening to biophilic soundscapes [20, 21] – even compared to silence [22, 23] – thanks to nature’s restorative properties. Our own research shows 20-30% improvements in cognitive performance with Moodsonic’s biophilic soundscapes.  

Our own research shows 20-30% improvements in cognitive performance with Moodsonic’s biophilic soundscapes.
Creativity Biophilic soundscapes have also been shown to improve creativity in published research24 and Moodsonic’s own analysis by +10%.  

Minimizing distractionsBiophilic soundscapes can be engineered to be highly effective “sound maskers” that minimise disruptions and are preferred to traditional masking noise.16 Moodsonic’s research shows that these natural masking soundscapes can minimise distractions in open spaces by 85-90%.


1. Ulrich, R. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224(4647), pp.420–421. doi: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.6143402

2. Li Z., Kang J. (2019). Sensitivity analysis of changes in human physiological indicators observed in soundscapes. Landsc. Urban Plan. 190:103593. 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2019.103593

3. Gould van Praag C. D., Garfinkel S. N., Sparasci O., Mees A., Philippides A. O., Ware M., et al.. (2017). Mind-wandering and alterations to default mode network connectivity when listening to naturalistic versus artificial sounds. Sci. Rep. 7:45273. 10.1038/srep45273

4. Largo-Wight, E., O’Hara, B.K. and Chen, W.W. (2016). The Efficacy of a Brief Nature Sound Intervention on Muscle Tension, Pulse Rate, and Self-Reported Stress. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 10(1), pp.45–51. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/1937586715619741.

5. Alvarsson, J.J., Wiens, S. and Nilsson, M.E. (2010). Stress Recovery during Exposure to Nature Sound and Environmental Noise. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 7(3), pp.1036–1046. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph7031036.

6. Medvedev O., Shepherd D., Hautus M. J. (2015). The restorative potential of soundscapes: a physiological investigation. Appl. Acoust. 96, 20–26. 10.1016/j.apacoust.2015.03.004

7. Sayin, E., Krishna, A., Ardelet, C., Briand Decré, G. and Goudey, A. (2015). ‘Sound and safe’: The effect of ambient sound on the perceived safety of public spaces. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 32(4), pp.343–353. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijresmar.2015.06.002.

8. Jahncke H., Hygge S., Halin N., Green A. M., Dimberg K. (2011). Open-plan office noise: cognitive performance and restoration. J. Environ. Psychol. 31, 373–382. 10.1016/j.jenvp.2011.07.002

9. Ratcliffe E., Gatersleben B., Sowden P. T. (2013). Bird sounds and their contributions to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. J. Environ. Psychol. 36, 221–228. 10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.08.004

10. Cerwén G., Pedersen E., Pálsdóttir A.-M. (2016). The role of soundscape in nature-based rehabilitation: a patient perspective. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 13:1229. 10.3390/ijerph13121229

11. Shaw B., Coyle A., Gatersleben B., Ungar S. (2015). Exploring nature experiences of people with visual impairments. Psyecology 6, 287–327. 10.1080/21711976.2015.1026086

12. Bell S. L. (2019a). Experiencing nature with sight impairment: seeking freedom from ableism. Environ. Plan. E 2, 304–322.

13. Saadatmand, V., Rejeh, N., Heravi-Karimooi, M., Tadrisi, S.D., Vaismoradi, M. and Jordan, S. (2015). Effects of Natural Sounds on Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial with Patients Receiving Mechanical Ventilation Support. Pain Management Nursing, 16(4), pp.483–492. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmn.2014.09.006.

14. Buxton, R.T., Pearson, A.L., Allou, C., Fristrup, K. and Wittemyer, G. (2021). A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [online] 118(14), p.e2013097118. doi: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2013097118.

15. Nasari, M., Ghezeljeh, T. and Haghani, H. (2018). Effects of nature sounds on sleep quality among patients hospitalized in coronary care units: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Nursing and Midwifery Studies , 7(1).

16. Haapakangas, A., Kankkunen, E., Hongisto, V., Virjonen, P., Oliva, D. and Keskinen, E. (2011). Effects of Five Speech Masking Sounds on Performance and Acoustic Satisfaction. Implications for Open-Plan Offices. Acta Acustica united with Acustica, 97(4), pp.641–655. doi:https://doi.org/10.3813/aaa.918444.

17. Jahncke, H., Naula, S. and Eriksson, K. (2015). The effects of auditive and visual settings on perceived restoration likelihood. Noise and Health, 17(74), p.1. doi:https://doi.org/10.4103/1463-1741.149559.

18. Goel, N. (2005). Late-night presentation of an auditory stimulus phase delays human circadian rhythms. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 289(1), pp.R209–R216. doi: https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00754.2004.

19. Mark, G., Gudith, D., & Klocke, U. (2008). The cost of interrupted work: More speed and stress. Proceedings of the 2008 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Florence, Italy.

20. Shu S., Ma H. (2019). Restorative effects of classroom soundscapes on children's cognitive performance. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 16:293. 10.3390/ijerph16020293

21. Zhang Y., Kang J., Kang J. (2017). Effects of soundscape on the environmental restoration in urban natural environments. Noise Health 19, 65–72. 10.4103/nah.NAH_73_16

22. DeLoach, A.G., Carter, J.P. and Braasch, J. (2015). Tuning the cognitive environment: Sound masking with ‘natural’ sounds in open-plan offices. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 137(4), pp.2291–2291. doi: https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4920363.

23. Proverbio, A.M., De Benedetto, F., Ferrari, M.V. and Ferrarini, G. (2018). When listening to rain sounds boosts arithmetic ability. PloS One, 13(2), p.e0192296. doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192296.

24. Alawad, A. (2012). Can we bring the natural environment into the art classroom? Can natural sound foster creativity? Management Department, Ministry of Education, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 7(28), pp.627–631.

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