This past year, audio has continued to break out of the traditions it has historically been held in. New advancements in sound through spatial and immersive audio allow the experience of sound to be distinct, with soundscapes that can react to movements in real-time, in various layers, and coming from different places within a space. Spatial audio has become more integrated, making it more familiar to many. Implementing multi-dimension soundscapes creates emotional connection to spaces. Audio technology has evolved, making immersive audio more accessible and more easily deployable. This flexibility is a tool that audio designers appreciate as it allows them to be able to create new experiences each time a soundscape is rendered. Evolving it in a meaningful way gives more control of interactivity when activating it in a space.
Audio interactivity engages the human senses, allowing immersive audio to help paint a picture. Relying solely on visuals isn’t encapsulating enough; multi-sensory environments thrive when both sound and sight are utilized, creating a space that refines a guest’s experience.
Companies are turning to immersive audio soundscapes to depict destinations and create sonic journeys that impact well-being. Through sound, it is possible to convey intentional emotions, establish and display a setting, and elevate the mood of a space. Companies can build an audio environment in order to reduce stress, increase productivity and promote employee wellness.
“Pleasantness and arousal are the most frequent psychological descriptors for soundscape subjective appraisals. Likewise, acoustic environments are reported to inconsistently evoke physiological responses with great variability among studies.” (Emotion and Physical Impact of Soundscape Meta-Analysis)
Good news, Spatial audio is not restricted to the use of headphones but rather thrives without them. The common misconception of it being headphone-specific does not take into account the creation of an immersive soundscape that builds a 360-degree world orchestrated using sound. Technological developments have contributed to spatial audio becoming more widely accepted commercially as it enhances spaces in workplaces, wellness facilities, hospitality and more. Take the headphones off to experience a sonic journey that brings audio richness, depth, and quality to surrounding real-world spaces.
In this work-from-home, hybrid, and in-person day and age, there isn’t a workplace or employee in general who hasn’t or won’t succumb to stressful environments and overall workplace burnout. More importantly, maintaining a supportive and progressive environment can only depend on the mental states of the employees themselves, which can be exacerbated by the mental states of the people as a whole. If the effectiveness of stress management can be at least somewhat determined by a workers’ resilience, it makes the most sense to invest in technological advances at the forefront of discovering better ways to cope, calm, and cure.
“Occupational burn-out has reached unprecedented levels, heightened by the global pandemic. Overall, 70% of American workers say job stress causes frequent health problems (Princeton Survey Research Associates, 1997). For frontline health workers, 58% report high levels of stress (AMA, 2022)."
Imagine a way to nip job stress before the snowball effects, to unwind the mind, to pre-treat the inevitable, to create a moment in sound that pauses listeners to allow their mental and emotional states to relax, and properly process everything transpiring in front of them. A form of sound-moving therapy, if you will.
“Research shows short experiences of 15-30 minutes in a well-designed Wellness Recovery Room can significantly reduce stress, improve mood, build resilience, and improve productivity. Sound has a profound effect on the parasympathetic nervous system. Successful models for Recovery Rooms include multi-sensory immersive experiences that mentally transport the individual away from the stress into relaxing nature soundscapes. Spatial’s 3D audio platform provides a highlevel of acoustic immersion to heighten emotional escape.”
Even amongst varied inconsistencies, the ability to evoke even a moment of physiological response produces an incredible amount of opportunity for what’s to come of healing when coupled with soundscapes that involve nature and overall wellness. This is especially true in the instance of recovery rooms or wellness spas. And now, knowing only a small spectrum of how impactful soundscapes are, the possibilities are becoming even more prevalent in cases of workplace recovery rooms. The only thing missing from here is consistency and availability of use, which is changing rapidly.
“Employers having successful workplace health promotion programs report that creating a “culture of health” is critical to the programs’ success. A culture of health can be defined as a workplace that places value on and is conducive to employee health and well-being. Smart managers recognize that human behavior is influenced by a combination of both individual characteristics and the entire ecological system surrounding that individual, so they take steps to address both individual and environmental factors.” (IHPS, 2015).
This speaks to health and wellness and touches on the early stages of stress, anxiety, and increased productivity in preemptive ways that empower users to reach for preventive care, which saves money, time, and lives.
Deliberate and well-thought-out soundscapes leverage the individuality gained by mimicking real-world experiences to create an immersive environment that builds interest and identity while appealing to an emotion or a perception of disposition.
Immersive audio is on the rise due to the growing interest in soundscapes and technology that dramatically impact well-being. Who wouldn’t prefer a curated audio experience over just hearing a few playlists? Immersive audio is able to intensify unique, flexible, and highly curated listener experiences that foster deeply meaningful content and emotional storytelling.