Combating Noise Pollution and Helping Guests Rest Easy

noise pollution

Complaints about noise can be the undoing of a hotel, as few things impact an otherwise ideal guest experience—and subsequent social media reviews—as negatively as a bad night’s sleep.
Niklas Moeller, vice president of K.R. Moeller Associates Ltd., a developer and manufacturer of sound-masking technology, has worked on hundreds of sound-masking solutions for commercial offices, hospitals, and hotels. He maintains that noise pollution can be attributed to a variety of interior and exterior sources, and while not every type of noise disrupts guests’ sleep, when it does, consequences can be dire. “Noise costs hotels money. Angry guests often demand discounts or extra services, or, even worse, don’t return and also steer their friends away from your hotel. So, the key thing for us in a hotel environment is to make sure guests don’t get awakened by noise,” he says.

According to Moeller, the key to noise control is not achieving silence, but creating quiet. “There’s a big difference between a space that is silent and one that is quiet. A silent space has absolutely no sound whatsoever, so when interfering or intermittent sounds occur—such as the proverbial dropped pin—they can be especially disturbing.” In contrast, he says, a quiet space may have sound, but it’s not unwanted sound. Noting people accustomed to ambient noise may actually find complete silence disconcerting, he uses the example of a desirable sound, that of the waves at the beach. “Although the sound of the waves may themselves be relaxing, it also helps mute sounds—such as that of other beach goers—that would otherwise be irritating.”

With this in mind, Moeller told LODGING, the solution is not eliminating noise, as one might assume, because the problem is actually insufficient background noise inside hotel rooms. “That insufficiency means that the guest hears absolutely everything that goes on in neighboring rooms and corridors, and even within the room itself,” he explains. He says, too, that the aspect of noise that causes people to wake is not the loudness of its volume, but its change from the otherwise consistent background sound level in the room.

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Moeller describes traditional approaches to addressing noise, which include reducing it at the source; blocking it with the shell, walls, windows, and doors; and absorbing it with soft furniture and flooring. These approaches, he says, remain essential, but are not always enough. Moeller, whose company traditionally focused on other types of businesses, says he was unaware of the need for acoustic solutions such as those offered by his company in the lodging industry. “It was only when approached by a hotel did we recognize that there was a rather substantial issue in the hotel industry with noise that we could help with.”

He says the company created its MODIO specifically for hotels after finding it difficult to implement their existing technology in hotel guestrooms, but reassures that it offers the same masking technology provided in other environments. How it differs, he says, is that it’s designed to be easily implemented inside an existing hotel guest room without the need for construction or to take rooms out of service. It is also guest-controllable. Moeller claims, “This comfortable, constant ambient background sound that most people compare to airflow makes it possible to remove intermittent noises from guests’ perception.” There is flexibility for hotel owners/operators, too, in that they can choose to install MODIO in one or a few rooms with consistent noise problems, or in every room to prevent unforeseen complaints, says Moeller.

Guest feedback on the technology, says Moeller, has been positive. “They feel it works well, and perceive it as an amenity. It also shows a proactive approach to dealing with noise in that the hotel is addressing it before it becomes a problem.”