What Is Sound Masking? How Does It Work?

It’s difficult to be productive in a noisy workplace. There’s also the issue of speech privacy. Can other employees hear what’s going on during your calls? Is this private meeting really so private? There’s no reason employees should have to worry about these things, as sound masking technology is more widely available than ever. Here’s how it works.
What Is Sound Masking?
Sound masking is the process of adding background noise to your environment in order to lessen the volume of speech and other distractions. It may seem odd that you can eliminate distractions by adding noise to your environment, but the science behind it is solid. Speech is the number one workplace distraction, so the noise used is in the same frequency range as human speech. It’s also strategically placed so that it blankets the entire space, allowing it to quickly fade into the background.

A good masking system is designed to be unobtrusive both visually and aurally. It’s placed in an area where it won’t become a visual distraction and the sound is tuned so that it seamlessly fades into the background of your office. There are two ways of accomplishing this: direct field masking and indirect field masking.

Indirect Field Masking
With indirect field masking speakers are typically installed in the ceiling, pointing away from the office. It may sound counterintuitive but it’s actually the most efficient way of masking noise. That’s because the sound from the speakers will bounce off of the deck above the ceiling and fill the entire room. This reduces the number of speakers needed to mask sound in your office and also makes the of the source of the sound masking harder to identify. The point of masking is to eliminate distractions in the workplace — you don’t want it to become another annoyance.

Direct Field Masking
Direct field masking involves pointing speakers directly at the area in need of masking. Direct field masking is typically more expensive and invasive. This is because you’ll need to install more speakers in order to fully eliminate dead zones — areas that sound from the speakers can’t reach. These dead zones are immediately obvious to employees moving around the office and can easily become another source of distraction. You typically want to avoid direct field masking when possible but for some offices, it’s the only option.

So Is This Just A Fancy Way Of Saying White Noise?
No, when done right sound masking takes into account the acoustic properties of the area in order to cover up distracting noises. On top of this, the frequency of sound used is closely matched to the frequencies of the human voice. This means conversations happening around you will fade into the background along with the masking noise itself. White noise, on the other hand, is indiscriminate. It isn’t able to mask human speech without becoming a distraction itself.

The bottom line is that sound masking is much more than pumping some white noise out of speakers. That’s why you should always have it installed by an experienced professional. Do-it-yourself solutions are more likely to introduce new distractions into your workplace than they are to eliminate them.

At Atlantic Communications our team has decades of experience providing the latest in noise reduction technology to businesses of all kinds. Please, contact us today to learn more about how your business could benefit from this technology or to get a personalized quote.