Does Sound Travel Up or Down?: Explaining How Sound Works

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Silent Home Hub Does Sound Travel Up or Down

If you have upstairs and downstairs neighbors, some questions you might be wondering about how sound travels are:

  • Does sound travel up? Yes, it does. 
  • So, does sound travel down? Yes, it also does.

This article has all the information you need to understand sound, and how you can use this knowledge for soundproofing!

Table of Contents

Before We Begin

Beautiful sounds surround us: The wind blowing, waves crashing, birds singing, music playing, people laughing — even the sound of our breathing is wonderful.

To say these are the only sounds would be an understatement.

But surely, you wouldn’t add these examples to that list, right?:

  • Your neighbors’ booming speakers creating a vibration throughout your entire apartment building
  • Children’s noisy floor movements
  • Your neighbors’ loud conversations
  • Music that BLASTS through your thin walls and ceiling

So allow us to ask you: With all of these sounds coming from so many sources, can you say sound and music is limited to traveling up or down only?

If you want to have a peaceful apartment living and block unwanted noise throughout your apartment floor, then we must go back to the source to find the answer to your question: Does sound travel up or down?

This brings us to the question…

What Is Sound?

To answer the question: Does sound travel up or down, we should understand how sound moves. But first, let’s try to understand what sound is.

Sound is a type of energy made by vibrations.

These vibrations create sound waves that move through three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas.

In a nutshell, sound travels through liquid, air, and hard material. The walls, ceiling, floors, and other surfaces are the MEDIUM in which the sound travels in your apartment floor.

Any sound, whatever it may be, is caused by something vibrating. If you’re within the range of those vibrations, you hear the sound travel to your ears.

Does Sound Travel Up or Down?

Sound travels start with a mechanical movement that causes some vibrations in the molecules, which in turn causes other molecules to vibrate.

These vibrations from one molecule to the other helps sounds to travel and spread out in all directions.

If there are other molecules to bounce off of, the vibration can travel, and the sound energy is created.

However, if there are no other molecules, the sound waves can’t be transmitted, so the sound can’t travel as well. That is the reason why there’s no sound in space.  

Quite complicated, right? Allow us to break it down easier:

  • Imagine slamming your hand onto a table.
  • The moment your hand slams onto the table, the hard surface of your table would vibrate at an extremely high speed. But of course, you can’t see these vibrations.
  • The vibrations on the table then create vibrations in the air.
  • Once the air moves, the energy created by slamming your hand onto the table carries or travels everywhere.

So, does sound travel up or down?

The answer is: Neither.

Sound is OMNIDIRECTIONAL, meaning it travels in all directions — so technically, sound travels up AND travels down.

As long as there is something that can pick up the energy created such as the floor, wall, or any other material, sound can travel!

Factors That Influence the Way Sound Travels

If you want to cancel out unwanted noise and sounds throughout your apartment floors, there are factors that you should take into consideration. These factors can affect the direction and the intensity of the sound:

1. The Position of the Source

The position of the sound’s source tells us where the sound is heard. The closer you are to the source, the higher the vibration and sound you hear.

Figuring out the source of the sound shouldn’t be too difficult no matter what environment you’re in.

2. The Medium

The direction and spreading of sound energy are inevitably affected by the medium the sound waves travel through.

Once sound contacts with a hard surface, many of its sound waves will be reflected and continue moving in a new direction with less energy.

The type of material used in your apartment affects and determines the direction and speed of the sound wave, which in turn dictates the amount of noise or the frequencies you hear.

Also, as discussed, sounds can travel through the air. Thus, the air is also a medium of energy.

Types of Sound

You now know about the factors affecting the way sound travel.

If you want to eliminate noise in your apartment, you should also be aware of another factor: the sound transmission or the type of noise you are trying to eliminate.

Basically, there are two types of sound, or in your case, noises that you should know:

1. Airborne Noise

As we have discussed earlier, sound requires a medium to travel to sustain. For this type, the sound is traveling through air.

A speaker playing, people speaking, children crying, and neighbors singing are common examples of airborne noise which moves through the air.

The noise or noises you are eliminating most likely fall under airborne noise.

2. Impact Noise (Structure-Borne Noise)

Impact noise or structure-borne noise is a type of noise that travels through solid structures. That’s why it is called structure-borne noise.

Impact and surface contact should be present to produce impact sound. The sound of people walking around their floors above your ceiling is one example of impact sound.

Another example of structure-borne noise is when someone drills on ceilings or walls. This example shows the collision and impact needed to produce a sound wave vibration.

Your downstairs neighbors are most likely to suffer from a situation of impact noise due to the number of apartment rooms and the level of floors above them.

How to Minimize Noise

Sound travels in all directions unless something redirects it. Sounds can be absorbed, deflected, and redirected.

If you’re planning to have a home office or just wanted to have a peaceful bedroom, you should eliminate any unnecessary sounds in your apartment.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Look for holes and air gaps on your floor, door, window, walls, and ceilings. Sealing anywhere where air can enter might make a difference in minimizing the frequency levels of those unwanted noises. 
  • Use plush furniture, curtains, window trimmings, and even plants to bounce off the sounds and lower the sound frequencies. You can also utilize carpets and layerings on your floor to prevent impact noise.
  • Utilize soundproofing materials and soundproofing layers to step up your game and make way for a quieter place.
  • Mask an unwanted sound with white noise. Popular among new parents, this technique is a relatively new and effective way to fight noise.
  • Be considerate and respect your neighbors as well. If you don’t enjoy ear-shattering speakers and loud floor tapping, they must not like them too (because no one does, right?). So, just be a good neighbor.

Stepping Up Your Soundproofing

People use acoustic panels to decrease the amount of noise in their apartments and eliminate their noise problem completely.

And you can definitely try them too if you badly need to step up your soundproofing game!

If you’re looking for one option, we recommend JBER Acoustic Foam Panel.

One good reason why we recommend the JBER Acoustic Foam Panel is that it’s already tested and proven by more than thousands of people (not to mention, it’s part of Amazon’s Choice).

Aside from that, JBER is:

  • Great for treating unwanted noise and echo, perfect for home studios and offices
  • Consistent in density and firmness
  • Easy to shape; you can cut it to size without affecting the panel’s performance
  • Fire-resistant soundproofing panel
  • A fine budget option that’s totally worth the cost

Conclusion

Woman sitting alone inside a room

Apartment living can be stressful if you have excess noise around you, and sounds can travel in all directions, whether it be up or down.

Understanding the movement and the type of sound can help you minimize unwanted noise so that you can spend your day peacefully and have a good night’s sleep.

With the knowledge and techniques in this guide, you won’t have to suffer anymore!

OTHER SOUNDPROOFING GUIDES:

About the Author

andrea_adams

Andrea Adams

Fidgeting with gadgets and electronics has long been Andrea’s expertise. She has assembled, disassembled, and tweaked almost every type of device you can think of. Through the years, she has come to realize that technology should never be fussy. And that’s where her interest in quiet products stemmed from. She hopes to become your go-to person for insight when deciding on noiseless goods to purchase.