Starkey Blog

#HearingFactFriday: 70 decibels is the momma bear of noise levels

In a recent Harvard Business Review article titled, “Why you can focus in a coffee shop but not in your open office,” author David Burkas brought up a study that examined how various background noise levels impact people’s creativity.

The randomized study exposed groups of participants to background noise ranging from total silence, to 50, 70 and 85 decibels (the level where hearing loss can start). Interestingly, the difference between all levels was “statistically insignificant,” except for the 70 dB level, which is similar to the background noise level in a coffee shop. Participants in that group “significantly outperformed the other groups.”

The study — and Burkas — conclude that optimal creative thinking happens with a right level of noise: not too loud, but not in total silence either. And 70 dB seems to be just right.

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