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What Is Soundmasking And What Benefits Does It Offer?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Soundmasking technology reduces the impact that ambient noise has on workers’ attention and comfort. According to research published by the University of Sydney, excessive noise is the top complaint for 50 percent of people working in an open office. As open office plans are becoming more popular, the need for soundmasking technology is increasing. With a soundmasking system in place, ambient office noise (most of which is conversation) doesn’t spread as far, so it’s not as distracting and affects fewer people. [/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

How does soundmasking technology work?

Soundmasking is not a new approach to noise reduction. In the past, organizations have relied on white or pink noise machines to drown unwanted sounds out, but there are limitations with this technology. Specifically, white and pink noise machines can sound harsh when the volume is cranked up, because they emit in a large range of frequencies. To many people, they sound like TV static, which is effective at masking noises, but only because they produce a distracting amount of noise themselves. Modern soundmasking systems are frequency-matched to human speech, which has the effect of scrambling distant conversation so that it is unintelligible, but without the overwhelming buzz that can come from other noise machines. A soundmasking system does this using a set of speakers or emitters, carefully positioned to account for the room’s acoustics. These speakers work together to create zones of contained sound, so it’s like having invisible, but effective acoustic walls between workspaces.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361373038{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

What are the benefits of soundmasking?

There are numerous benefits to soundmasking, especially if the technology is installed by an experienced AV integrator. For example:[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361378142{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

It targets the most distracting sounds

Human speech is extremely distracting when it’s clear enough to make out. When it’s distant and unintelligible, though, human speech fades into the background. Think about what it’s like being at a restaurant. If the people the next table over are having a loud conversation, it can be intrusive. The people on the other side of the restaurant, though? They may be adding to the overall sound level, but because you can’t pick out individual words, what they say doesn’t register and distract. That’s what soundmasking aims to do. It turns more of the annoying, discernible conversation into the kind of noise that doesn’t require your attention.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361383138{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

It is less likely to sound harsh

Almost everyone is conditioned to hear the frequencies of human speech. As such, human speech isn’t normally perceived as harsh. Modern soundmasking systems leverage this by emitting sounds in the same band of frequencies, so while the technology wipes out human speech, it doesn’t do so with excessive noise. In fact, soundmasking technology sounds like the rush of air to most people, which is a sound most don’t have a problem with.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361389507{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

It produces an immersive type of noise

Another issue with white and pink noise machines is that the noise they generate is directional. In other words, it’s obvious where the noise is coming from, and this itself can be distracting. It’s like trying to sleep at night while the faucet drips loudly in the next room over. It’s not a loud noise, but because you know where it’s coming from, it’s difficult to ignore. Soundmasking technology emits frequency-matched noise from several points, so the sound comes from everywhere at once. If people can’t tell exactly where the sound is coming from, they won’t focus on it as much.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361397654{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

It gives workers privacy

Soundmasking reduces the distance that conversation travels, so professionals don’t need to worry if their phone call is being overheard. This also allows professionals to meet quickly and privately without dragging the meeting to another room.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

It helps some people feel at ease

Some professionals work optimally in an open office layout, but many people focus better when they can work in solitude. Soundmasking technology is ideal for these professionals and can improve their morale.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

How can soundmasking improve productivity?

The effects of noise-based distractions in the workplace are just now being understood, and they are significant. According to research published at SIGCHI (Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction), open office workers are distracted by sound every 11 minutes on average, and it can take up to 23 minutes for someone to get back on task after being distracted. Just how much time is lost to these distractions is hard to pin down, but some research has estimated it may be as much as 86 minutes lost every day, for every worker. Even if the actual number is half that, soundmasking can rescue a lot of lost productivity by cutting out those distractions and allowing people to stay on task. Though soundmasking does screen out ambient noise at a distance, it still allows nearby people to communicate and work together. You can still ask the person in the next cube over a question and be heard. If your company’s teams are organized so that they work closely together, soundmasking will enhance their collaborative potential.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361423874{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

Where can soundmasking technology be used?

In most cases, the technology is installed where people are likely to engage in conversation, including areas where speech confidentiality is a priority. Here are a few examples:[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361428557{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

Open offices

Open offices are driving the mass implementation of soundmasking systems, for numerous reasons. Soundmasking reduces distractions in these often chaotic working environments. Further, soundmasking allows team members to collaborate without fear of other people overhearing the conversation.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361433100{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

Public areas

In some spaces, like physician waiting rooms and bank reception areas, private information may be exchanged via speech. Instead of relying on acoustic features, soundmasking technology can provide an unobtrusive means of keeping identifying or sensitive information private.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Conference rooms and private offices

Conference rooms and private offices are meant to offer a concealed spot for sensitive conversation or collaboration. Soundmasking systems guarantee this, preventing sound from leaking into neighboring hallways or offices.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

What industries utilize soundmasking technology?

Soundmasking is appropriate for any industry where speech privacy is an ongoing concern. In addition to office buildings, the following industries can make use of soundmasking:[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_column_text]
  • Government institutions
  • Military facilities
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Law practices
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  • Sales and retail departments
  • Financial firms
  • Educational facilities
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]Soundmasking systems are versatile enough to work in any of these settings, no matter their acoustic and space challenges.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361768012{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

How can an AV integrator help companies implement soundmasking systems?

AV integrators are experts at implementing audio and visual technologies for commercial, educational and governmental clients. This includes soundmasking systems, and there are several reasons why your company should consider working with an integrator. Some of those reasons include:[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361773699{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

Deep knowledge of how sound works

Soundmasking systems are only effective if they are positioned just right. In effect, this means positioning the speakers so that they create a wall of immersive sound. To do that, the space must be mapped acoustically because something as simple as a desk or art feature can affect how sound behaves in a room. Some rooms come with standard acoustic challenges that experienced integrators know how to overcome. An integrator understands how conversation will travel through a building, giving them insight into positioning the speakers properly.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1586361778377{margin-bottom: 10px !important;}"]

Rapid system implementation

Outfitting an open office with soundmasking may require dozens of emitters, and that comes with a lot of installation and configuration. AV integrators are experts in both areas, so they can quickly implement ambitious soundmasking projects on time.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Ongoing system support

Soundmasking technology is reliable and low maintenance, but the occasional technical issue does come up. Reputable AV integrators offer their clients a maintenance agreement for this reason, so the system is professionally supported for years after installation. With remote, onsite and preventative maintenance services available, you’ll be able to count on your soundmasking technology for years to come.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Soundmasking is an unobtrusive, immersive approach to enhancing speech privacy in a variety of office and room settings. It can help your employees be more productive and more comfortable, and help them collaborate without distractions.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]