The Comprehensive Impact of Sound and Vibrations

We’ve all heard and felt them: the rattle of a jackhammer tearing through concrete, the distorted boom of a low-quality subwoofer turned up too high, and other, similarly obnoxious noises. Not only can these sounds be displeasing and potentially dangerous to our ears, but they can get in our bodies and shake our bones if they’re the right vibrational frequency.

On the other hand, positive vibrations can both please and soothe us. Think of your favorite song, a loved one’s voice, or the sound of birds singing on a summer day—pretty pleasant sounds, now aren’t they?

So, with their potential for both pain and pleasure, the question remains: How do sound vibrations affect the body? Here, we’ll dive into the mechanics of vibration to explain sound’s various effects on our bodies, how to utilize it for positive purposes, and strategies to negate negative noises that may cause us harm.

Understanding Vibrations

Vibrations are all around us. Nearly every motion creates some type of vibration, whether we recognize them or not. But what are vibrations? Vibrations are oscillations that occur around an equilibrium point. Simple, right?

If you’ve ever watched someone jump on a trampoline, you’ve got a great visual reference to get you started understanding vibrations. The jumping surface is taught at rest, which is its equilibrium point. When someone jumps up and down, the trampoline vibrates. The surface moves up and down, eventually returning to its equilibrium. It’s very similar to what you see when someone plucks the strings of a musical instrument.

In this manner, energy waves are transferred through the air and structures near the source of the sound vibration. As these vibrations resonate their way through a surface, they can create sound. Some clear examples of this phenomenon include:

  • Windows rattling
  • Walls shaking
  • Doors jiggling in their frames

Vibrations that create sound can be measured in hertz (Hz) on the frequency scale. Humans can, more or less, hear noises between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz—though some of us with stronger ears may have an even wider range.1

The Effects of Vibrations on Structures

As those vibrations make their way through buildings, they have the potential to deal damage—whether they create sound or not. Humans have been building for thousands of years and, along the way, we’ve learned about resonance—the tendency for structures and other systems to oscillate back and forth at some frequencies more quickly than others.2

All structures possess a natural period (also called resonance) which is the amount of time it takes to naturally vibrate back and forth. When an external source of vibrations matches this resonance, buildings undergo their largest possible oscillations (called resonant frequency) and disaster can strike.2

At no time is this more evident than during an earthquake. The earth’s immensely forceful vibrations are enough to shake a building to its core and bring it down in seconds. Even to this day, structures still fall all the time due to the power of earthquakes.

It’s not just large, isolated seismic events that can deal damage to buildings, however. Repeat, smaller vibrations can also harm structures by causing:

  • Nails to move
  • Bolts to loosen
  • Foundations to crack

Evidently, no positives can come from pumping vibrations through a building’s structure. Furthermore, the level of vibrational force that can cause damage may be lower than you think. There’s no need for heavy construction equipment or earthquakes to potentially impact a building’s structural integrity and harm can come from repeated exposure to:

  • Outside traffic
  • Loud music
  • Human footfalls

Unfortunately, the harm vibrations cause to buildings isn’t just limited to their structures, either. They can likewise affect the occupants—even if the building doesn’t collapse or close down.

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Vibrations and Human Well-being

Though vibrations more or less only harm buildings, they can have both positive and negative effects on the human body. Let’s consider the upsides by focusing on how vibrations can benefit humans. Keep in mind that vibrations are:

  • The sound waves that make up your favorite song – Music is just a series of carefully catered vibrations, and when you put the right frequencies in the right order, it’s pleasing to our eardrums. Listening to music can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, boost our immune systems, and help prevent cardiovascular diseases—so, in many ways, vibrations can have positive medical effects on our bodies.3
  • The relief in your massage tools – Massage guns, chairs, and pads all use vibrations to soothe tense muscles and provide relief from pain. Such instruments decrease stiffness and boost blood flow to aid recovery after workouts and injuries.4

On the flip side, vibrations can also cause the opposite effects on  humans. If they’re the wrong vibration frequency or you’re exposed to them for too long, vibrations can lead to:

  • Chronic numbness, pain, and tingling for individuals who regularly use vibrating power tools such as drills and grinders
  • Chronic back pain, motion sickness, and sleep disturbances after prolonged whole-body vibration exposure to —such as those experienced when standing or riding on moving machinery
  • Hearing loss or tinnitus when vibrations present as loud, intrusive sounds

So, clearly vibrations possess the power to both significantly harm and help us. When we harness and control them for our own benefit, however, vibrations can have benefits beyond music and massages.

Navigating the World of Sound Therapy

Sound therapy uses auditory and vibratory inputs to positively influence our psychological and physiological states. There are several main branches of sound therapy, including5:

  • Sound healing
  • Vibroacoustic sound therapy
  • Music
  • Music therapy.

Sound therapy boasts a myriad of potential benefits for its patients. Using different frequencies, rhythmic patterns, and vibrational techniques, practitioners of sound therapy can help you6:

  • Reduce your stress levels
  • Relax
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Decrease your heart rate
  • Mitigate feelings of anxiety
  • Overcome pain
  • Sleep better

Low-frequency sounds seem to have the highest potential for medical use and recent scientific research into the effectiveness of sound therapy has found6:

  • Sounds in the 0-200 Hz range can promote the production of positive chemicals—such as collagen and decorin—that prevent spinal disc degeneration and its associated pain.
  • Vibrations of 40 to 80 Hz can decrease lumbar discomfort and promote increased mobility.
  • Frequencies between 10 and 100 Hz can promote bone growth and inhibit the onset of osteoporosis.

There are a plethora of other uses for sound therapy, and as medical science expands and develops, we’ll likely discover even more. But, for the time being, let’s focus on what we can do: minimize negative vibrations to increase your overall quality of life.

Strategies to Mitigate Negative Vibrations

From street noise to your neighbor’s bassy speakers shaking your apartment walls, negative vibrations are all around us. Luckily, with the right building materials and techniques, you can mitigate many unwanted sound vibrations before they reach your ears (and the rest of your body).

To truly make a space safe against intrusive vibrations, it’s best to install vibration-reducing equipment during its construction. Therefore, when planning out a structure’s design, be sure to include:

  • Sound isolation clips – These decoupling mechanisms go in the interior of your walls and separate finished surfaces—such as drywall—from your building’s internal structure. They mitigate the vibrational transfer of noise and create an air gap in your walls to bolster their soundproofing and sound absorbing capabilities.
  • Barrier–Decouplers – When installing pipes and ductwork, be sure to wrap them with a mass-loaded barrier–decoupler to reduce vibrational transmissions. Metal is a prime material for reflecting sounds and carrying vibrations, so ensure you treat all internal structural components before putting your walls up.
  • Floor underlayments – You can always tear your hardwood or carpet up and install an underlayment, but it’s much easier to do so before laying down the final product. Underlayments float finished floors above the building’s structure to reduce the vibrational impact of footfalls and dropped items.

Of course, if your building is already complete, there’s little you can do to protect its internal structural components against vibrations without doing a little deconstruction first. In such cases, consider lining your walls with acoustic panels. These heavy, flat panels mount directly to your walls and help minimize noise transfer with their dense cores that absorb and reflect the sound vibration.

Case Studies and Practical Applications

With dropped weights, gratuitous grunts, and cardio machines of all kinds twirling away, gyms are notorious for being loud places. Reverberation and echoes are all too common at most fitness centers—and Claremore Recreation and Expo Center was no exception.

When they converted their racquetball court into a spin room, the excessive echoes reverberating off the walls amplified noise to unbearable levels and made normal conversations impossible. To mitigate this issue, they lined their walls with Fabrisorb Fabric Wrapped Sound Absorbing Wall Panels. The results were night and day and the director says the room now feels as if it was built with exceptional acoustics in mind.

Psychologists’ offices are another place where quiet and peace are essential. Patients need to feel free to share their feelings with their doctor, so they want to be sure their words don’t escape the sanctity of their office. Likewise, external noises and vibrations can be jarring for individuals with mental health issues.

Mental health professionals should install barrier–decouplers in their walls and ceilings accordingly to mitigate vibrational noise transfer and make their patients feel at ease. Likewise, they should line their entrances with acoustic door seals to totally isolate sound and vibrations within their space.

Mitigate Intrusive Vibrations and Noises with Soundproofing Materials from Acoustical Surfaces

Vibrations can have both positive and negative effects on the human body. They have a variety of therapeutic uses, but excessive or intrusive vibrations can cause discomfort or even chronic pain.

Vibrations are almost always detrimental to buildings, however. The largest ones—earthquakes—can level a block in seconds. Even small vibrations, however, can affect the structural integrity of buildings and make their way inside to harm their occupants—usually in the form of intrusive sounds.

To keep these negative noises and vibrations at bay, build or upgrade your space with soundproofing materials from Acoustical Surfaces. Over time, loud noises can cause hearing loss, anxiety, and sleep issues. In a soundproof building, however, you won’t have to experience these uncomfortable symptoms nor deal with the annoyance of persistent noises.

Want to soundproof your space but not sure where to start? Tell us about your noise and vibration issues and we’ll help you find a custom solution that fits your needs.



  1. National Library of Medicine. The Audible Spectrum.
  2. Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology. Building Resonance: Structural stability during earthquakes.
  3. National Library of Medicine. Music, mental health, and immunity.
  4. National Library of Medicine. The Effects of Massage Guns on Performance and Recovery: A Systematic Review.
  5. Science Direct. Sound Therapy.
  6. National Library of Medicine. Possible Mechanisms for the Effects of Sound Vibration on Human Health.

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