Learn about Sound Masking

What is sound masking?

Sound masking is the addition of an engineered sound to an environment to mask speech. Sound masking reduces distractions and improves productivity. It also renders conversations unintelligible to nearby listeners, increasing privacy and confidentiality.

Why choose sound masking?

While open-plan offices encourage interaction and collaboration, noise from nearby conversations can be distracting. Striking a balance between employee interaction and independence is the key to maximizing comfort and productivity. In work environments where confidentiality is important, such as doctor’s offices, sound masking enables people to speak at normal conversational levels while maintaining speech privacy. Sound masking systems also help organizations comply with privacy regulations. Privacy standards in Canada require pharmacists and pharmacy employees, for example, to use private and semi-private areas to communicate with patients and to use appropriate tone and volume of voice. Sound masking systems make it easier to uphold privacy standards.

How it works

Sound masking works by decreasing the “dynamic range” of sound in an environment. Dynamic range is the difference between the lower, background sound level and the higher sound level of speaking and working. Offices are often perceived as noisy because they have a large dynamic range. Sound masking works by subtly raising the background sound level, reducing the dynamic range of sound in the environment. To make an analogy with light, if someone turns a flashlight on and off in a dark room, the flashlight is very distracting. But if the room light is turned on, then the flashlight is less noticeable. Sound masking works in the same way—by covering a distracting noise with an unobtrusive background sound.

Determining a sound masking budget

Determining a sound masking budget The cost of a sound masking system depends on the size of the space. As a rule of thumb, the average cost is about $1 per square foot. Sound masking systems are cheaper than the alternative of floor to ceiling walls. Putting up walls drives up costs because it requires installing individual ventilation and ceiling grids in each room. Sound masking systems can be installed in both new and existing buildings. From the perspective of employers, sound masking systems save money by increasing worker productivity. From the perspective of designers and architects, sound masking systems enable them to save their clients’ money by creating acoustically comfortable and esthetically pleasing spaces; as cheaply as possible. Because of decreased building costs and increased worker productivity, most sound masking systems pay for themselves within one year.