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Soundscapes for health and wellbeing

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A hand holding/nurturing a plant to symbolise wellness

Our love of nature, and its subsequent health benefits, is a scientifically established concept known as “biophilia”. Soundscaping systems can bring intelligent audio to the built environment to combat stress and boost feelings of wellness, safety, restoration, and motivation.

Noise and wellbeing

Noise takes its toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. In the short-term, it induces physiological and psychological stress,1,2 irritation,3 and fatigue.1, 3, 4 Long-term exposure to noise is linked to a multitude of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease,5 diabetes,6 and depression.7 And, if we become ill, the noise in our hospitals impacts our ability to rest, heal, and recover.4, 8

Traditional sound masking

Traditional sound masking produces broad-brand noise designed to reduce speech intelligibility. This approach has remained “relatively unchanged” for decades.9

While the benefits of these systems for speech privacy are well-proven, several recent studies indicate that ongoing exposure to white noise causes stress and induces the release of hormones such as cortisol.10, 11 Excess cortisol can impair our ability to plan, reason, retain information, think clearly, and control impulse reactions, and cause physical health problems such as heart disease.

Most traditional masking systems also operate at fixed or scheduled levels, irrespective of the changing noise levels or conditions within a space. As buildings become increasingly multipurpose, flexible, and digitally aware, the soundscape has failed to keep up with our health and wellbeing needs.

BIophilic soundscapesfor masking

Biophilic nature sound is a verified alternative to traditional sound masking.12 Research has shown that it’s actually preferred to filtered pink noise.12

In a breakthrough study conducted in 2015, natural sound even outperformed the gold standard for psychoacoustic research: silence.13, 14 Critically, the study showed evidence of improved restoration, as cognitive functioning remained high throughout the day, compared to the fatigue and drop-off in cognitive scores shown over time in the silent condition.13 Most recently, these findings have extended to real-world applications too.15

Biophilic wellness

The health benefits of biophilia apply not just to sight and light, but to sound as well. Studies have demonstrated that listening to sound from the natural world can reduce the physical16 and psychological17 symptoms of stress and encourage feelings of wellbeing,9 safety,18 restoration,19 and motivation.1

Circadian rhythms
Circadian rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle, like sleeping at night and being awake in the daytime. Irregular circadian rhythms are linked to various chronic health conditions like sleep disorders, obesity and diabetes. 21, 22 Biophilic sounds like birdsong can cue our body’s circadian rhythms. 20 By cueing these rhythms, we can help stabilise our sleep patterns (which may be off-kilter, given the amount of time we spend indoors) or adapt better to shift work.

Intelligent sound
Moodsonic’s content creates the optimal audio environment for wellbeing. Its content reacts intelligently to any external data inputs – like temperature, noise levels, and wellbeing metrics.

Immersive experiences
Research shows that creating a multi-sensory biophilic environment can enhance its benefits. In one study, accompanying video content increased the restoration benefits of biophilic sound by 38%. 1

Algorithmic, non-repetitive sound
The current research paints a negative picture for repetitive background sound. For example, when we listen to a new song we tend to enjoy it more with repeated listening. But at a certain point, familiarity gives way to boredom, and the repetition becomes irritating rather than exciting. 23

There seem to be similarly negative effects for non-musical sound too: 60% of common irritating sounds are characterised by their repetitive nature. 24

Moodsonic’s soundscapes are all generated algorithmically using our proprietary generative software.



1. Jahncke, H., Hygge, S., Halin, N., Green, A. M., & Dimberg, K. (2011). Open-plan office noise: Cognitive performance and restoration. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 31(4), 373-382.

2. Evans, G. W., & Johnson, D. (2000). Stress and open-office noise.Journal of Applied Psychology. 85(5), 779-783.

3 Rafferty, A., Xyrichis, A., Wynne, J., & Mackrill, J. (2017). Hospital project on noise, sound and sleep.King’s College London

4. Hongisto, V., Haapakangas, A., & Haka, M. (2008). Task performance and speech intelligibility - a model to promote noise control actions in open offices.9th International Congress on Noise as a Public Health Problem (ICBEN).

5. Münzel, T., Gori, T., Babisch, W., & Basner, M. (2014). Cardiovascular effects of environmental noise exposure.European Heart Journal, 6(13), 688-697.

6. Sakhvidi, M. J., Sakhvidic, F. Z., Mehrparvar, A. H., Foraster, M., & Dadvand, P. (2018). Association between noise exposure and diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Research, 166, 647–657.

7. Beutel, M. E., Jünger, C., Klein, E. M., Wild, P., Lackner, K., Blettner, M., … Münzel, T. (2016). Noise annoyance is associated with depression and anxiety in the general population- the contribution of aircraft noise.PLoS ONE, 11(5).

8. Park, M. J., Yoo, J. H., Cho, B. W., Kim, K. T., Jeong, W.-C., & Ha, M. (2014). Noise in hospital rooms and sleep disturbance in hospitalized medical patients.Environmental Health and Toxicology, 29.

9. DeLoach, A. G., Carter, J. P., & 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, 2291.

10. Rugg, M., & Andrews, M. (2010). Ask the Brains: How does background noise affect our concentration?American Scientific, 20(7), 74.

11. Babisch, W. (2003). Stress hormones in the research on cardiovascular effects of noise.Noise and Health, 5(18), 1-11.

12. Haapakangas, A., Kankkunen, E., Hongisto, V., Virjonen, P., Oliva, D., & 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), 641-655.

13. DeLoach, A. G., Carter, J. P., & Braasch, J. (2015). Tuning the cognitive environment: Sound masking with “natural” sounds in open-plan offices.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

14. Proverbio, A. M., De Benedetto, F., Ferrari, M. V., & Ferrarini, G. (2018). When listening to rain sounds boosts arithmetic ability.PLoS ONE.

15. Haworth & Poly. (2020). Acceptance & Efficacy of Biophilic Soundscaping in An Open-Plan Office.

16. Alvarsson, J. J., Wiens, S., & Nilsson, M. E. (2010). Stress recovery during exposure to nature sound and environmental noise.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

17. National Trust. (2019). Woodland sounds boost wellbeing, according to new study.

18. Sayin, E., Krishna, A., Ardelet, C., Briand Decré, G., & 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), 343-353.

19. Ratcliffe, E., Gatersleben, B., & Sowden, P. T. (2013). Bird sounds and their contributions to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery.Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 221-228.

20. Goel, N. (2005). Late-night presentation of an auditory stimulus phase delays human circadian rhythms.American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

21. Germain, A., & Kupfer, D. J. (2008). Circadian rhythm disturbances in depression. Human Psychopharmacology.

22. Shi, S. Q., Ansari, T. S., McGuinness, O. P., Wasserman, D. H., & Johnson, C. H. (2013). Circadian disruption leads to insulin resistance and obesity.Current Biology.

23. Berlyne, D. E. (1974). Studies in the New Experimental Aesthetics: Toward an Objective Psychology of Aesthetic Appreciation.Music Educators Journal (62).

24. Bruxner, G. (2016). “Mastication rage”: A review of misophonia - An under-recognised symptom of psychiatric relevance? Australasian Psychiatry, 24(2).

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