Sound Masking 101

What is sound masking?

Sound Masking Experts

 

 

 

sound masking definitionSound Masking Definition

Sound masking is the process of adding background sound to reduce noise distractions, protect speech privacy and increase office comfort.

 

 

 

acoustic and sound maskingSound masking and acoustic design

Sound masking is ambient background sound engineered to match the frequency of human speech for greater speech privacy.

Architects consider a variety of elements to address noise control and speech privacy that either Absorb, Block, or Cover sound, and are collectively called the ABC’s of acoustic design. Sound masking systems are designed to cover noise.
Sound masking is a cost- efficient way to reduce noise distractions and protect private conversations. Oftentimes, absorbing materials (carpet, ceiling tiles, etc.) and blocking structures (walls, cubicle partitions, etc.) are costly and underused, particularly in modern offices.

 

How does sound masking work?

Sound masking is ambient background sound engineered to match the frequency of human speech for greater speech privacy.

Adding sound to a space actually makes the space seem quieter. It sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true. This is because the added sound reduces the intelligibility of human speech. When you can’t understand what someone is saying, their words are less distracting — in fact, you probably don’t even notice them.

Sound masking makes a building seem quieter by raising the ambient noise level of an environment and making speech noise less intelligible and therefore less distracting. When you can’t understand what someone is saying, their words are less distracting — in fact, you probably don’t even notice them.

 

sound masking radius of distractingSound masking is an ambient sound, similar to the sound of airflow, that’s specifically engineered to the frequency of human speech you can target conversational distractions and make them less distracting. Sound masking does not cancel sound or eliminate all speech noise in an environment; it simply reduces how far away conversations can be heard and understood by others, which we call the radius of distraction.

 

 

 

 

 

What does sound masking sound like?

If deployed properly sound masking should be barely noticeable and sound similar to the sound of gentle airflow. Generally it should blend into the background of a workplace and contribute to workplace’s general ambiance. Contrary to some misconceptions, sound masking is not “white noise.” White noise’s frequency is actually something that, when amplified, would be extremely unpleasant to listen to (think of a radio station playing nothing but static).

 

 

How is it different than White Noise?

Sound masking is often referred to as “white noise” but as you can see on the chart on the left, their sound curves vary significantly.

Unlike white noise, sound masking is specifically engineered to match the frequencies of human speech and to sound comfortable, even pleasant, to the human ear. When implemented properly, sound masking should just fade into the background “hum” of a workplace while simultaneously making speech more difficult to hear and understand.

Conversely, the frequency of white noise would be extremely irritating if it were amplified to a volume that would be effective for masking human speech — think “loud AM radio static.” It might cover up the sounds of human speech, but not effectively or efficiently since it is not specifically engineered to do so.

Why Sound Masking?

Increase Focus and Productivity

Employees are interrupted by speech once every 11 minutes* and waste an average of 21.5 minutes a day due to conversational distractions**. Sound masking can help you get those minutes back. Learn more about sound masking from Cambridge Sound Management.

Protect Private Conversations

53% of employees report having overheard confidential company information at the office***. The lack of speech privacy can result in compliance and legal concerns when workers are discussing private customer information such as finance or healthcare records. Sound masking can help companies protect confidential customer, company, and employee information.

 

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*Mark, Gudith, and Klocke, “The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress,” Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
**Haapakangas, Helenius, Keskinen, Hongisto, 9th International Congress of Noise as a Public Health Problem
***National survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from November 4 to December 2, 2014