How sound impacts wellbeing & the spa experience

The sound of your spa environment has an impact on how people feel when they’re in it. Here’s how sound affects stress levels and the guest experience in your spa.

The sound of your spa environment affects how people feel when they’re in it.

We know that loud noise exposure can impact the ear and cause hearing loss, and studies suggest it can have other detrimental health effects. Traffic and airport noise exposure, for example, is linked to cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke. Noise has even been linked to increased blood glucose levels and increased risk of diabetes. 

Noise is a nonspecific stressor

According to a paper published in Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, “Noise is a nonspecific stressor that activates the autonomous it’s autonomic nervous system and endocrine signaling,” and chronic low noise levels are associated with disturbances of activity, sleep, and communication, “which can trigger a number of emotional responses, including annoyance and subsequent stress.” And we know, of course, that stress is associated with negative health outcomes, including cardiovascular risk factors.

Loud noise probably isn’t a major consideration in your spa (we’re assuming you’re not hiring industrial metal bands to play live shows in your pool area), but the way sound carries and the sonic environment as a whole can still have a positive or negative impact on the guest. How far a voice travels or construction or street noises from outside can interrupt an otherwise blissful experience. These are things to be mindful of. 

And what, at the other end, constitutes a relaxing sonic environment? Silence, they say, is golden, but not necessarily always ideal. Some sounds may be able to induce a trance or relaxation state, as evidenced in the practice of sound therapy and the use of singing bowls. And music is, of course, a familiar element often incorporated into the treatment experience. 

Music may increase revenue

Did you know that music can have a positive impact on business?

According to a study by Music Works:

  • 1/3 of customers are willing to pay 5% more in businesses that play music.
  • 3/4 of employees enjoy going to work more when music is played, and 1/3 are less likely to take time off sick.
  • More than 50% of customers spend more time in stores that play music.
  • 81% of people prefer hair salons that play music.
  • Music in waiting rooms makes over 3/4 of people feel more relaxed.

Don’t, however, assume everyone wants to listen to new age music or typical “spa” sounds. Offering a music menu is one good way to ensure the guest gets to hear what they want. Just make sure your walls aren’t so thin that, if the person chooses pop music or a bombastic symphony, the guest next door who opted for the New Age drone isn’t listening to Beethoven’s 9th.

The most relaxing music in the world

In 2011, researchers claimed to have found the world’s most relaxing music. The track most likely to chill you out, they said, is “Weightless,” by Manchester trio Marconi Union, who worked with sound therapists to create it. It was said to be so effective at inducing sleep “it should not be listened to while driving.” This may or may not be hyperbole.

The song’s harmonies, rhythms and bass lines are purportedly designed to slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Listening to “Weighless” was also said to slow breathing and reduce brain activity. Subjects reportedly experienced a 65% reduction in overall anxiety.

The eight-minute-long track features guitar, piano, and electronic samples of natural soundscapes overlayed with chants. It contains a sustaining rhythm that starts at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50.

Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, told Spa Executive in 2019 that a person’s heart rate will gradually slow to match the pulse of the track, which leads to a fall in blood pressure.

The sound of birds and water

Meanwhile, despite the caution about not everyone wanting to hear “spa music,” we do know that the sound of nature can make people feel better. A 2019 study reportedly found that gentle woodland sounds, such as birdsong and the breeze rustling leaves in the trees, are more relaxing than meditation recordings. And, research conducted in 2021 found that nature sounds may positively influence health outcomes.  

The researchers found that people who experienced the sounds of nature felt decreased pain, lower stress, improved mood, and had enhanced cognitive performance. Bird sounds were best for combatting stress and annoyance, while the sound of water was most effective at improving positive emotions and health outcomes, a research brief stated.

The researchers wrote: “The results affirm that natural sounds improve health, increase positive affect, and lower stress and annoyance … Raising awareness of natural soundscapes at national parks provides opportunities to enhance visitor health outcomes.”

Open the window and let the sounds of birds and water into the spa – but close it when it gets too noisy out there. 


Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at

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