Sound masking is the addition of an unobtrusive background sound, similar to airflow, to reduce the intelligibility of human speech and reduce distractions. The resulting environment leads to greater productivity and increased privacy and comfort.
Sound masking is the only acoustical treatment that addresses all sound paths. The acoustical effect of walls, carpets, and ceilings are static; sound masking can be tuned and adjusted as needed. Adding sound masking to an open office space is the acoustical equivalent of tripling the distance between workers.
The goal of a well-designed Sound Masking System is to achieve speech privacy in an office environment. Simply put, speech privacy is the inability of an unintentional listener to understand another person’s conversation. So, people with a lack of speech privacy are overhearing lots of conversations that they shouldn’t be, which is, understandably, quite annoying to employees.
When we look at acoustical related complaints of office workers, we find that most complaints center on the idea that others can hear our conversations, or that we can hear others’ conversations (a lack of speech privacy). Rarely is the problem that there is simply too much noise in the environment
Sound masking speakers are installed such that one cannot discern where the masking sound is coming from. Typically, upward-firing speakers installed above-suspended ceilings uniformly fill the occupied space below. Speakers can be installed above suspended ceilings, below raised access floors and in open structure.
Sound masking systems reduce conversational distractions while increasing worker concentration, productivity, accuracy, and satisfaction. Today’s green buildings introduce new acoustical challenges. Adding sound masking can help solve the lack of privacy caused by decreasing workstation heights and less room absorption.
Sound masking is easily installed in both new and existing facilities and provides an effective way of treating acoustic problems without large-scale remodeling. Because it is not a physical barrier, sound masking can satisfy competing requirements for auditory privacy, reduced noise disruptions, and caregiver access and interaction.
Sound masking makes noises and conversations more difficult—or impossible—to hear or comprehend. Because it reduces speech intelligibility, patients’ fear of being overheard is reduced. And the resulting auditory privacy helps fulfill HIPAA-related requirements. Sound masking also reduces the dynamic range, or sound variation over time, making the space seem quieter. It minimizes the differences in the sound level and quality across the space making movements from one area to another less disruptive. Studies have found that this sound type also shortens the time it takes to fall asleep, does not disrupt sleep itself, and helps to reduce sleep disruption from noises.
Sound masking can also reduce construction costs and the need to pursue other acoustic treatments, although maximum performance is achieved with a combination of masking, physical barriers, and absorptive materials.
Iowa Audio Video is proud to partner with Cambridge Sound Management | Dynasound and Lencore in Iowa. We provide design, installation, tuning and acoustical analysis on both new and existing installations.