Sound Masking

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Sound masking is the addition of natural or artificial sound (commonly

referred to as white noise) into an environment to cover-up unwanted sound by using auditory masking.

 

This is in contrast to the technique of active noise control. Sound masking reduces or eliminates awareness of pre-existing sounds in a given area and can make a work environment more comfortable, while creating speech privacy so workers can better concentrate and be more productive. Sound masking can also be used in the out doors to restore a more natural ambient environment.

Sound masking can be explained by using a light analogy. Imagine a dark room where someone is turning a flashlight on and off. The light is very obvious and distracting. Now imagine that the room lights are turned on. The flashlight is still being turned on and off, but is no longer noticeable because it has been "masked". Sound masking is a similar process of covering a distracting sound with a more soothing or less intrusive sound.

 

Sound masking can be used anywhere to ensure speech privacy or reduce distractions. It is typically used in selected work spaces but it can also be helpful in residential environments.

The most common sound masking installations are:

  • Open office plans – open offices can be either too quiet (where someone dropping a pen in the next cubicle is distracting) – or too noisy (where the conversations of others in the office make it impossible to concentrate). Open offices can benefit from sound masking because the added sound covers existing sounds in the area – making workers less distracted and more productive.

  • Private offices – private offices and other enclosed spaces often appear to provide privacy but actually do not. Many times, walls are lightweight and do not extend to the ceiling deck – only to the ceiling tile. In these cases, sound can easily travel through partitions or over the walls. Sound masking can be provided in adjacent private offices, or in hallways outside of private offices, to ensure that confidential conversations remain confidential.

  • Public spaces – sound masking is useful for reception areas, pharmacies, waiting rooms, and financial institutions. Sound masking is provided in the area where conversations should not be heard – not necessarily in the area where the conversation is taking place. For instance, a psychiatrist does not want those in the waiting room to overhear a private conversation with a patient, so sound masking is provided in the waiting area: not in the psychiatrist's office.

 

Sound masking may also be used to hide other unwanted noise, such as the intermittent sounds from machinery. In an office this could be sound of elevators and compressors. Sound masking may render conversations unintelligible by nearby listeners and may thus help compliance with HIPAA and GLBA regulations.

AVDI is a specialist sound masking system designer and integrator. We work with specilaist sound masking product manaufacturers such as Cambridge Sound management, TOA Electronics and Biamp.

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