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What Is Sound Masking?

what is sound masking

As the modern workplace has embraced the open floor plan to improve collaboration and make more efficient use of each space, employees have discovered the challenges inherent in trying to concentrate while being able to hear everyone and everything around you. Sound masking is a technology that uses an evenly distributed audio field to increase privacy, reduce distractions, and promote productivity. Additionally, sound masking systems drastically increase the comfort level within a given space by creating a more coherent and consistent acoustic profile. Let’s take a closer look at sound masking and how it can help your workers.

What Is Sound Masking?

In offices and spaces featuring open floor plans, every sound represents a potential distraction to participants within the space. Employees often struggle to block out nearby conversations, typing, meetings, noise from adjacent floors, and even outside traffic. Unwanted sound is often considered the most challenging part of working in an open office floor plan. Every time an employee is interrupted or distracted, frustration increases, and valuable time and energy are expended trying to recapture lost momentum.

To create a more desirable acoustic profile within a physical space, sound masking employs a specifically selected range of acoustic frequencies to strategically mask ambient sounds. A sound masking system may initially sound like white noise but, rest assured, the light whooshing noises are a careful blend of frequencies specifically chosen for the most effective background environment.

While sound masking aims to eliminate the negative effects of distracting noise, it doesn’t create complete silence.Performance may improve in the presence of healthy background noise. The key is that it has to be healthy and balanced; sound masking systems aim to create just the right kind and level of ambient sound.

How Does Sound Masking Work?

Sound Masking is far more than just white noise. Sound Masking systems employ a carefully organized grid of emitters to ensure a perfectly balanced audio field that goes completely unnoticed by the occupants. By selecting frequencies that obscure human speech, sound masking systems drastically reduce the distance of intelligibility. Practically speaking, this means that conversations and other sounds that occur outside the immediate work area become unintelligible and the human brain automatically blocks them out. The result is a workspace that promotes both the ability to focus and the comfort of its occupants.

To create this kind of interconnected system, sound masking involves a network of sound masking emitters and specific zones tailored to the needs of each area. Each zone has its own adjustable sound masking field tuned to just the right level for maximum effect without being distracting.Sound masking systems are incredibly flexible, with an array of adjustments and modifiable settings: zone sizes and levels, individually controlled emitters for more granular control, and the choice of direct or reflected sound give end users an array of tools to address acoustic needs in a workspace.

What Are the Benefits of Sound Masking?

Sound masking offers a wide variety of benefits with everything from security improvements to comfort:

  • It can improve productivity and focus: We don’t need to tell you how difficult it is to read or work with loud noises and other conversations going on nearby. Studies show that masking can reduce disturbances and help improve employee’s cognitive performance. The productivity benefits can be invaluable.
  • It can improve comfort: Working in an uncomfortable environment isn’t enjoyable. Even if they don’t affect productivity, annoying sounds can hurt employee satisfaction. Masking helps to boost comfort in the building and could help you retain hardworking employees.
  • It keeps confidential conversations private: Ambient noise can cover up the sounds of private conversations, so employees, customers and clients can feel confident that their discussions stay within the two parties. This factor is especially important in environments where highly confidential or personal information is discussed.
  • It offers flexibility: Sound masking systems are incredibly flexible and can be adjusted as needed. You can often designate specific high and low parameters to your liking. You can also incorporate paging systems or music players within a masking system.
  • It offers a fast return on investment: Sound masking systems start working for you as soon as they’re in place. They can boost productivity right away and help make the office a more pleasing environment.

Who Can Use Sound Masking?

While sound masking is common in offices with open floor plans, it is also perfect for a wide variety of locations, including:

  • Private offices: If walls are thin, a private office may not offer much reduction in noise. One-on-one meetings may be overheard, and workers may not get a moment of privacy with all the conversations outside. Sound masking can help.
  • Call centers: With so many different conversations going on, a method of evening out those sounds is critical. People calling in won’t hear other conversations in the background, and employees won’t have to try to talk over others.
  • Hospitals: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a very serious concern in healthcare. If it’s easy for passersby to hear the details of a patient’s medical information, important confidentially expectations can be broken. A sound masking system can help keep private information within a smaller radius to minimize risks of HIPAA violation. Similar environments that can benefit from masking include pharmacies and labs.
  • Other health offices: Psychiatrists, specialists and other professionals can benefit from keeping things quiet, too. They can talk to patients in private without clients in the waiting room listening in.
  • Financial institutions: Privacy is also a big deal in banks and credit unions. Someone discussing their account with a teller shouldn’t have to worry about the customer in line behind them picking up on their information.
  • Military facilities: On a similar note, military facilities frequently deal with confidential topics. It is critical they can speak without fear of someone overhearing them, which sound masking systems can help accomplish.

Work With an A/V Expert

As you can imagine, an interconnected system like this can get a little complicated. Fortunately, Morefield Communications can help. We carry exceptional sound masking systems and can integrate them quickly and easily, with minimal interruptions to your workday.

Morefield Communications has been helping Pennsylvania businesses find the right technology solutions for over 70 years. Contact us today to learn more about a sound masking system and how it can help your employees work smarter.

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