Telepathic/empathic energy is an actual force in Star Trek - it has ranges, strengths, and is affected by various phenomena.
One example of extremely strong telepathic energy - so strong it prevented the entire crew from entering REM sleep - came in TNG 4x17, Night Terrors.
Related is Psionic energy, which if I remember correctly, Deep Space Nine's sensors were able to detect after calibration.
Just like a Faraday cage will block an electric field, and other substances provide resistance, it seems easily plausible that psionic energy and telepathic/empathic energy can be affected by the physical universe similarly.
And yes, as mentioned in @user13095's answer, we know for certain there is a general range limitation to Betazoid empathic powers, based primarily on each person's own skill: in TNG 3x20, Tin Man, Troi is shocked to learn how far away Tam Elbrun was in contact with "Tin Man".