Hotel Room Acoustics – how noise affects a person’s stay in the hotel

Hotels have been playing an important role during the current pandemic. In certain countries, the local governments have announced that it is compulsory for those entering the country from overseas to carry out hotel quarantine. Taking Malaysia as an example, travellers entering the country regardless from any country are required to undergo hotel quarantine for up to 10 days (as of January 2021), in which the local authorities will arrange the rooms for them unless the travellers opted for Premium Package which of course, costs higher than the standard ones. Travellers will have to take COVID tests in between to ensure that they are COVID-negative and isolating them in the hotels will make sure that there will not be the possibility of spreading the virus to the public since all travellers should be taken as potential risk carrier.

Hotel room comfort

Many may be wondering: How is the cleanliness of the room? Are the meals provided good? What about the Wi-Fi strength there?

But there is one thing that people sometimes forget about: Noise. From the study done by the J.D. Power North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Survey, it has been consistently shown that complaints on noise issues are significantly under-reported, and hardly being resolved in the end (Simonsen, 2019). Imagine living in a confined space for more than 10 days, where you need to experience constant noise coming from your neighbours, or from outside the room like traffic or construction noise, how will you feel? Looking at some hotel review posts in the Malaysia Quarantine Support Group (MQSG) created to aid travellers coming into Malaysia, there seem to be numerous posts complaining about noise nuisance during their quarantine period. The typical problems faced by members include:

  1. Traffic noise – hotel is located next to busy road
  2. Construction noise in the day from nearby sites
  3. Loud neighbours – speaking loudly especially at sleeping hours

To be exact, these are the similar nuisance one would experience in residential houses.

For short term stays, these may not be the main concern, but it is a totally different case for a quarantine. Unreasonable amount of noise daily for long term, especially after a tired flight and transition at the airport, will lead to unwanted circumstances on a person’s health (physically and mentally).

Noise and Sleep Disturbance

For people who are extremely sensitive to noise, the first thing that can be observed will be that they cannot sleep or even rest well. This will result in sleep deficiency, which slowly drains off the energy to carry out daily tasks. According to Hume, many from the research field claimed that sleep disturbance caused by environmental noise has the most detrimental effect to health. Having an undisturbed night of sleep is even taken to be a fundamental rights and prerequisite to ensure continued health and well-being (Hume, 2010). Hume mentioned that noise pollution can be described as the “modern unseen plague” which may interfere with cognitive processes hence disturbing sleep quality.

To overcome the problem of noise affecting sleep quality, the World Health Organization (WHO – European Office) has brought in experts with relevant documents in recent years to establish the Night Noise Guidelines for Europe. The guidelines contain the latest reviews of noise disturbance and the potential risk to human health. Below are the four ranges of continuous external sound level at night, relating night noise and the populations’ health effects:

<30 dB – no substantial biological effects could normally be expected

30-40 dB – primary effects on sleep start to emerge and adverse effects in vulnerable groups

40-55 dB – sharp increase in adverse health effects while vulnerable groups become severely affected

>55dB – adverse health effects occur frequently with high percentage of the population highly annoyed

These guidelines help to understand the effect of noise on sleep, although a large extent of this topic still relies on fully understanding the fundamentals of the nature of sleep.

Acoustics Solutions for Hotels

As mentioned in the previous sections, the noise complaints for hotel rooms mainly cover traffic noise, noise from neighbours and construction noise. Since sound travels in wave forms, soundproofing will be one of the best concepts to act as a barrier that can effectively stop the sound waves from entering a room from outside.

Typically, there are four methods to achieve the soundproofing effect for hotel rooms (SoundGuard, 2019):

  • Absorption – adding sound insulating materials such as mineral wool or fiberglass for sound absorption, thus preventing sound from passing through
  • Damping – soundwaves often cause vibrations between air particles. Damping helps in reducing or eliminating the vibrational effects by acting as a barrier that does not vibrate
  • Decoupling – In layman terms, this also means separating the walls by adding an insulation layer between the two layers of drywall.
  • Mass – Utilizing thicker, heavier, or denser materials to block sound

While choosing the right material for insulation, it is important to take note on the Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. The STC rating defines the effectiveness of materials in attenuating airborne sound. The lower the STC rating, the less sound that can be effectively blocked. Therefore, to achieve good insulation results, it is better to use a material with higher STC value.

When should you implement acoustical solutions?

Ideally, it is best to start from the very beginning, which is during the project planning stage (yes, before you even start building it!). Quoting a line said by Scott Rosenberg, the president of Jonathan Nehmer + Associates, and the principal with HVS Design, “You have to think about the inside walls like they’re on the outside” (Fox, 2018). This was said for atrium style hotels which are normally structured like giant echo chambers, where noise from the lobby may travel up to the penthouse suite due to the structure. In the planning stage, allocating which part of the hotel goes where is also crucial to make sure you keep sounds in the right places, and nowhere else. For example, it is important to locate the facilities like gyms, pub, or even spa strategically so that the noise from these places will not affect the guests staying in the hotel rooms. If you really must put them above/below rooms, make sure to use walls or ceilings that are properly insulated.
For existing hotels, another good time to improve the acoustics of the hotel will be during renovation periods. Since you took the step to upgrade your hotel looks and structure, why not consider soundproofing as well? It will definitely help to raise the customers’ satisfaction during their stay.
The areas that can be considered for hotel soundproofing during renovation include:
• Floors – adding soundproofing underlay
• Ceilings – using decoupling methods (dual-layered drywall)
• Doors – changing to solid-core heavy doors with seals
• Walls – adding insulation between walls / use soundproofing paint


How do you know if your hotel needs acoustical improvements?

Although some may only start treating the problem after getting significant complaints from customers, hotel owners should consider taking the initiative to find out the noise condition in the building. A good start will be to carry out noise measurement tests to monitor the condition in each room. Having noise data from the measurements will help you understand what the situation is, and how you should resolve them. This is where an acoustics consultant should step in.
It is suggested to consult the acoustics specialists to get the most suitable solution for your case, because not all solutions can be applicable for all conditions. Acoustics consultants can help you to analyse the condition by using methods like indoor noise mapping, material insulation calculations and even tiny suggestions like adding certain types of furniture to aid sound absorption in the room itself.

Effects of Acoustics Improvement to the Hotel

It is proven that by enhancing the acoustics of hotels, business can be improved too. For example, Premier Inn in the UK has pioneered the new design of “floating bedroom” in 2011 at its hotel in Leicester Square. This new design allowed the hotel to resolve the environmental noise and the noise coming up from the nightclub on the ground floor. Premier Inn had also changed their focus from cost to customers’ sleep quality, which enabled them to become one of the best-rated hotels in London (Simonsen, 2019). Thus, the hotels’ business and reputation will strongly improve by taking care of the noise aspects.
Now, back to the starting topic of this article. Hotels are no longer only used as the accommodations for vacations or business trips. Hotels play an important part during this pandemic, being the quarantine centres in many countries. Therefore, it is important to ensure the customers’ (or those under quarantine) comfort during their stay, voluntarily or not. Their reviews make a lot of difference, which will highly impact a hotel’s image to the public. Most importantly, good, soundproofed room means less noise, resulting in better living and sleep quality. Hence, hotel owners are urged to investigate the acoustics aspects of their property, for themselves, and for the customers.


Fox, J. T. (2018, July 17). Careful hotel design keeps noise in check. Retrieved February 4, 2021, from Hotel Management:

Hume, K. (2010). Sleep disturbance due to noise: Current issues and future research. Noise Health, 12(47), 70-76. Retrieved February 2, 2021, from;year=2010;volume=12;issue=47;spage=70;epage=76;aulast=Hume

Simonsen, J. (2019, June 20). Why and how to reduce noise in hotel rooms. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from Rockwool:

SoundGuard. (2019). Hotel Sound Reduction – How to Soundproof a Hotel Room. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from SoundGuard:

Asia Noise News

Acoustics Glossary

Get a better understanding of acoustics with our glossary of terms. Let Geonoise Instruments help you solve your noise problems today!

Arranged by:

Adetia Alfadenata

Acoustic Engineer

Geonoise Indonesia

Asia Noise News


Sound measurement is one of the measurements which is considered to be important in a lot of different industries. For example, automotive, manufacture, HSE, research and so on. One of the aspect that is important for all measurements are its calibration. Calibration is a process of documenting and adjusting the reading of measurement instruments with a traceable reference. 

The frequency range of acoustic measurement in air is wide, from infrasound to ultrasound. From tenth hertz to 200 kHz. It is measured in a wide range of dynamic range too, from 20 micropascal to 20 kilopascal. Therefore, to be able to conduct these measurements in a wide range of frequency and dynamic, different kinds of microphone is used.

Most measurement microphones and reference microphones is condenser microphone. This type of microphone is widely chosen because of its flat frequency response and a good mechanical stability. The standard used for measurement microphone is IEC61094-4 which is called working standard microphones, abbreviated WS. WS microphones are categorized into 3 types based on its diameter which are 23.77 mm, 12.7 mm and 6.35 mm. These three microphones are called WS1, WS2 and WS3 respectively.

Another standard is used for Laboratory Standard Microphone, abbreviated LS, which is IEC61094-1. Similarly to WS, LS can be categorized by its diameter, which are LS1 with 23.77 mm and LS2 with 12.7 mm diameter. LS microphone is designed so that it can be fitted into calibration coupler and is normally used by national metrology institute as a national reference in a country. Both of the standards mentioned above specify dimension, sensitivity, frequency response, acoustic impedance, dynamic range, ambient influence and stability.

Condenser microphone is a reciprocal transducer. This microphone can work as a microphone by converting acoustic signal into electric, as well as working as a sound source by converting electrical input into acoustic output. This is why condenser microphones can be calibrated by a calibration method called reciprocity.

Before we discuss further about the calibration method, it is useful to discuss about sound field and the type of microphone used to measure in such fields. There are three types of sound field in general. In a cavity which dimension is smaller than a quarter of the measured wavelength, the soiund field is called pressure-field. This field happens in a calibration coupler for microphone calibration, telephone and hearing aids, for example. Sound field in an anechoic chamber or outdoor where sound can propagate without obstacles is called free-field. While sound field in a reflective room is called diffuse-field. 

All types of microphones can influence the sound field which is being measured, including condenser microphone. Microphones that are used in cavities should have a stiff diaphragm, or in another word has a high acoustic impedance. For free-field condition, microphones that are chosen ideally has a diameter less than 5-7% from the wavelength of the sound being measured. In practice, this rarely happens, so that the influence has to be taken into account in the measurement results. Similar situation happens in diffuse-field, although the influence is relatively smaller.

Note that the influence in the free-field and diffuse-field depends only on the dimension of the microphone’s body. Because of this reason, the influence only have to be measured once for the same microphone model. After the influence is defined, it can be applied to all the same microphone of the same model. 

Let’s go back to reciprocity calibration. This method was invented in the 1940s. This method has been developed and standardised which makes the method one of the most widely used calibration techniques to determine microphone’s response in pressure-field and free-field. The calibration method is based on transfer function of two microphones which are coupled as microphone and sound source.

The two microphones are coupled in a well-defined acoustic environment. The transfer function which is the ratio between output voltage of the sensor and input current of the source is measured. This ratio is called electrical transfer impedance (Ze). Furthermore, by knowing the acoustic transfer impedance (Za), the product of the sensitivity of the two microphones can be defined by this equation.

Where M1 and M2 is the sensitivity of microphone 1 and microphone 2, Ze/Za is the ratio between electric and acoustic transfer impedance.

By using three microphones (1,2,3) and defining three impedance ratio equations (A,B,C) for three possible combinations (1-2, 1-3, 2-3), the sensitivity of three microphones can be calculated by solving these three equations.

Some national metrology institutes are doing reciprocity calibration for laboratory standard microphones. The frequency ranges from 20Hz to 10kHz for LS1 and 20Hz to 20kHz for LS2. Some of the institutes has experience in calibrating lower or higher frequency range.

Building Accoustics

Researchers Develop ‘Acoustic Metamaterial’

Boston University researchers, Xin Zhang, a professor at the College of Engineering, and Reza Ghaffarivardavagh, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, released a paper in Physical Review B demonstrating it’s possible to silence noise using an open, ring-like structure, created to mathematically perfect specifications, for cutting out sounds while maintaining airflow.

They calculated the dimensions and specifications that the metamaterial would need to have in order to interfere with the transmitted sound waves, preventing sound—but not air—from being radiated through the open structure. The basic premise is that the metamaterial needs to be shaped in such a way that it sends incoming sounds back to where they came from, they say.

As a test case, they decided to create a structure that could silence sound from a loudspeaker. Based on their calculations, they modeled the physical dimensions that would most effectively silence noises. Bringing those models to life, they used 3-D printing to materialize an open, noise-canceling structure made of plastic.

Trying it out in the lab, the researchers sealed the loudspeaker into one end of a PVC pipe. On the other end, the tailor-made acoustic metamaterial was fastened into the opening. With the hit of the play button, the experimental loudspeaker set-up came oh-so-quietly to life in the lab. Standing in the room, based on your sense of hearing alone, you’d never know that the loudspeaker was blasting an irritatingly high-pitched note. If, however, you peered into the PVC pipe, you would see the loudspeaker’s subwoofers thrumming away.

The metamaterial, ringing around the internal perimeter of the pipe’s mouth, worked like a mute button incarnate until the moment when Ghaffarivardavagh reached down and pulled it free. The lab suddenly echoed with the screeching of the loudspeaker’s tune.

How acoustic metamaterial works – Geonoise Instruments
How acoustic metamaterial works – Geonoise Instruments

Now that their prototype has proved so effective, the researchers have some big ideas about how their acoustic-silencing metamaterial could go to work making the real world quieter.

Closer to home—or the office—fans and HVAC systems could benefit from acoustic metamaterials that render them silent yet still enable hot or cold air to be circulated unencumbered throughout a building.

Ghaffarivardavagh and Zhang also point to the unsightliness of the sound barriers used today to reduce noise pollution from traffic and see room for an aesthetic upgrade. “Our structure is super lightweight, open, and beautiful. Each piece could be used as a tile or brick to scale up and build a sound-canceling, permeable wall,” they say.

The shape of acoustic-silencing metamaterials, based on their method, is also completely customizable, Ghaffarivardavagh says. The outer part doesn’t need to be a round ring shape in order to function.

“We can design the outer shape as a cube or hexagon, anything really,” he says. “When we want to create a wall, we will go to a hexagonal shape” that can fit together like an open-air honeycomb structure.

Such walls could help contain many types of noises. Even those from the intense vibrations of an MRI machine, Zhang says.

According to Stephan Anderson, a professor of radiology at BU School of Medicine and a coauthor of the study, the acoustic metamaterial could potentially be scaled “to fit inside the central bore of an MRI machine,” shielding patients from the sound during the imaging process.

Zhang says the possibilities are endless, since the noise mitigation method can be customized to suit nearly any environment: “The idea is that we can now mathematically design an object that can block the sounds of anything”.


Asia Noise News Building Accoustics

Exploring Jakartan Public Transportation Through The Sound

Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, is home to 10 millions of Indonesia population. Recently the Indonesian government is being sued by a group of activists and environmentalists due to the unhealthy air quality in Jakarta. The plaintiff hopes that through the lawsuit, the Indonesian government can improve existing policies to address the air pollution issues.

On 18 Jul, according to the Switzerland-based pollution mapping service AirVisual, the Air Quality Index (AQI) of Jakarta is 153, categorized as unhealthy and may cause increased aggravation of the heart and lungs. The recommendation upon this condition is to wear a pollution mask and use air purifiers inside the room. The AQI Measures five criteria air pollutants (particulate matter, sulphur, dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone), and converts the measured pollutant concentration in a community’s air to a number on a scale of 0 to 500.

Air Quality Index – AirVisual

Jakarta is one of the largest urban agglomerations in the world. The uncontrolled increase in urban population is proportional to the number of the vehicle in Jakarta. According to Badan Pusat Statistik (Statistics Indonesia), the growth of motorized vehicle in Jakarta is 5,35% every year, on the other hand, this growth will increase the number of pollution in Jakarta. This statement is supported by the acting head of Jakarta Environment Agency, Andono Warih, the fuel residue of motorized vehicles was the main contributor to severe air pollution as 80 per cent of vehicles powered by diesel fuel operated from Jakarta Greater Area (Jabodetabek) to the capital.

Jakartan can contribute directly to overcome air pollution issues. Public transportation is an environmentally friendly mode of getting around. Because public transportation carries many passengers on a single-vehicle, thus it can reduce the number of vehicles as well as reducing the number of emissions from transportation in a dense urban area. Further, public transportation can help Jakarta to reduce the smog, to meet air quality standards and to decrease the health risk of unhealthy air quality. 

The urban transportation system in Indonesia consists of buses, trams, light rail, metro, rapid transit and ferries. Particularly in Jakarta, urban rail-based transportation, such as Commuter Line Train, Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), provides mobility and access to the urban area.

MRT Jakarta Phase 1 – MRT Jakarta

The first phase of MRT Jakarta (MRT-J) has been operating since March 2019. In daily operation, the train runs from Lebak Bulus Grab Station to the Bundaran HI Station. There are 13 stations along the railway; the underground stations are Bundaran HI, Dukuh Atas BNI, Setiabudi Astra, Bendungan Hilir, Istora Mandiri, and Senayan Station. Meanwhile, the overground stations are ASEAN, Blok M, Blok A, Haji Nawi, Cipete Raya, Fatmawati, and Lebak Bulus Grab Station. The MRT-J only needs 30 minutes to travel along the 16 kilometres railway, starting from Lebak Bulus Grab Station in South Jakarta to the Bundaran HI Station in Central Jakarta.

There are 16 train lines available to take the passengers getting around. Based on the MRT-J website, In weekdays operation, the trains operate at 05.00 WIB to 24.00 WIB with a total of 285 trips. Meanwhile, in weekend operation, the trains run at the same hour with a total of 219 trips.

During the promo operation (1 April – 12 May), the average number of daily passengers reached 82,643, whereas after the full tariff was applied, the average per day was 81,459.

The following pictures will show you the scenes of MRT Jakarta.

So what do you think? Have you tried getting around using MRT Jakarta? If you have never, try immediately and feel the different sensation of Public Transportation in Indonesia.

Further, through this article, I would like to invite you, explore the MRT Jakarta through a different perspective, that may be for a group of people this method is still rarely used, a sound.

Do you realize that sound can tell us about character, place, and time? Sometimes, it informs us in ways visuals can’t, and that is the idea of what we are going to do right now. Later you will hear, a file of recorded sound of MRT-J in its daily operation.

The sound was recorded by the soundwalk method, any excursion whose primary purpose is listening to the environment. It is exposing our ears to every sound around us no matter where we are. We may be at home, walking across a downtown street, or even at the office. Meanwhile, in this case, our environment is inside the line of MRT Jakarta. The goal is to capture any sound sources that exist during the operation of MRT-J, including the activity of the passengers.

The sound was recorded by using a mounted microphone on the iPhone X at a level of 1.2 m above the ground. The following sound is a recorded environment while the MRT-J was travelling from Bundaran HI Station to Setiabudi Astra Station, the duration of recording sound is 4 minutes and 40 seconds. Please use an earphone or any similar devices to listen to the audio for a better experience.

Caution: please set the volume around 50 – 70 % of the maximum volume.

After listening to the sound, can you identify what sound sources are presented in the recording? Here are the sound sources that I have identified:

  1. Engine sound increases speed
  2. Public Address system
  3. Engine sound
  4. Rail friction
  5. Passengers’ activities (cough, sneeze, conversation, footsteps, etc.)
  6. The sound of the door opening
  7. Brake squeak

Now we have identified the sound sources that are presented in the recording. But, do you know how many decibels that I have to endure while travelling using the MRT-J? In this article, manual measurements of noise levels were performed with a sound level meter in the MRT Jakarta with passengers on its usual route. A-weighted sound level measurements were recorded directly from one station to the next during the time between 08:00 and 09:00, using a calibrated microphone on a stand at a level of 1.2 m above the ground. The results of equivalent continuous A-weighted noise levels Leq (LAEq) in the MRT-J with passengers on its usual route from one station to the next is shown in Chart 1. 

Leq is the A-weighted energy means of the noise level averaged over the measurement period. The results from the measurements show that the A-weighted noise level is varied between 77 dB to 82 dB. Further, if we look closely into the Chart, the noise level is fluctuating. It can be caused by a lot of factors, such as: 

  1. The position of MRTJ (When MRT-J inside the tunnel, the noise can be levelled up due to the reflection phenomenon).
  2. Speed (The machine indicates producing a higher noise when in the maximum speed).
  3. Path Crossing.
  4. The Public Address System Volume.

Moreover, the level of continuous noise in Chart 1 represents a quite noisy environment. According to The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, states that Long or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 dB can cause hearing loss. Thus, according to the measurement results, I suggested you wear ear protection during commuting by MRT-J. The earplug is one of the equipment that we can use to protect our hearing; you only need to spend a few thousand rupiahs for this. Wearing earplugs can help you to reduce the noise by 18 – 34 dB, it depends on the models/brand. For more accurate results, we need to do a complex measurement, such as:

  1. Add measurement point (In this article, the measurement was done only in a measurement point, at the second car of the line).
  2. Add a velocity as a measured parameter.
  3. Add the measurement time; the measurement can be done during the operation hour, non-stop. (05:00 – 24:00 WIB).

Nonetheless, the idea of showing the measurement results is spreading noise awareness. Noise sticks with you around, even common sounds you hear at work or home can contribute to long term hearing loss and other health risks, they are everywhere, but only a few people are aware of it. Noise pollution is a health threat nobody is talking about. Here are some parameters to help you determine acceptable — and dangerous — noise levels:

  • 45 dB: nightly noise ordinance threshold set by many municipalities concerned with industrial noise exposure for residents
  • 65 db+: exposure for prolonged periods can cause physical and mental fatigue
  • 85 dB+: can cause permanent hearing loss if exposed for extended periods
  • 85-120 dB: dangerous over 30 minutes of exposure
  • 120-130 dB: can cause permanent hearing loss for exposure over 30 seconds
  • 130 dB+: not only are these noises painful, but hearing protection should always be used if avoidance is not possible.

Everyone needs to take care of their ears and hearing, as damage to the auditory system could be irreparable. The loss because of the noise exposure is gradual; you might not notice the signs, or you ignore them until they become more apparent. Please do protect your ears. 


Westerkamp, Hildegard (1974). “Soundwalking”. Sound Heritage