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How Is Sound Masking Different To White Noise?

How Is Sound Masking Different To White Noise?


In our years of installing sound masking we have had one questions that is repeatedly brought up – what’s the difference between sound masking and white noise? Other than us just saying that sound masking is better, there are many reasons as to why to the two technologies differ.

We’ve gone into detail about each technology so you can see the difference and decide for yourself which one you would prefer.

What is white noise?

White noise is a type of sound that is produced by combining the sounds from all different frequencies together. If you took all of the imaginable tones that a human can hear and combined them together, you would have white noise - not really something you would want projected into a working environment.

As it covers all frequencies it would be extremely irritating if it were amplified to a volume that would be effective for masking human speech. It would cover up human speech, but it would also create an uncomfortable working environment. Ultimately, adding white noise into a working environment would create a distracting and unproductive workplace.

What is sound masking?

Sound masking makes a building appear quieter by raising the ambient noise level in an office environment. Unlike white noise, sound masking only uses the sound from the frequencies found within the human voice.

It is an effective method that, when installed correctly, has the potential to bolster acoustical privacy and reduce distracting noises, which in turn helps to improve the overall office comfort.

By creating ambient background noise, our systems are engineered to match the frequency of the human voice for greater speech privacy. Adding noise to a space may sound counter-intuitive, but our solution reduces the intelligibility of human speech. When you can’t understand what someone is saying, it becomes less distracting and you probably don’t notice them at all.

How does white noise differ from sound masking?

As we mentioned in the introduction when we discuss sound masking, for those who aren’t familiar with the technology often mistake it for white noise, and they do have similarities, but sound masking and white noise are two different approaches to the same problem.

Anyone who is exposed to a true white noise sound would immediately understand that it is not suitable for use as background sound in the office. An optimum background sound is one that is unobtrusive and easily ignored, as well as one that provides effective blocking of speech sound.

Sound masking is specifically engineered to match the frequencies found in human speech to create a more comfortable sound whereas white noise projects all frequencies and sounds very similar to loud AM radio static – not something you want in a productive office environment or GP surgery.

White noise machines are easily located, you can pinpoint where the noise is coming from, much like when you have a noisy fan (or person) in the room. This immediately becomes more distracting.

Due to the sophisticated technology of sound masking, the noise that is injected into the room is completely immersive. The speakers are situated around the treated area in a systematical structure so the sound should fade into the background and not become distracting.

Where can I use sound masking?

Sound masking is a great addition to any workplace that values privacy, wellbeing and productivity. It is ideal for meeting rooms and conferencing rooms that are adjacent to each other or open plan offices. Sound masking can improve the confidentiality levels to have 100% privacy, meaning you can have important meetings without the worry of being overheard.

Sound masking is also an effective solution that works hand in hand with conferencing equipment. Due to its ability to mask human speech, background conversations and noises can be subdued so not to interfere with the call. Clients and employees feel comfortable sharing sensitive information more freely, increasing the capacity of work that can be done.

It’s also great for open plan offices where noise is a concern 72% of UK office workers either work in an open plan or a shared office. In the Noise and Wellbeing at Work survey it was found that 54% of UK office workers reporting that noise was an issue at work. Installing sound masking into an open plan office is proven to diffuse office distractions like echoes and reduce the intelligibility of human speech. It can be installed into almost any architectural concept and can also be intertwined with natural sounds to create a completely immersive environment for employees to unwind and collaborate naturally.

It’s not just the office that suffers from a lack of privacy, 51% of people have overheard a confidential topic being discussed outside of work, in GP surgeries, hospitals and waiting rooms. Privacy is a fundamental human right, yet in places where you think you would receive the highest amount of privacy like GP Surgeries, waiting rooms and healthcare facilities, there seems to be a lack of it.

We highly recommend having a sound masking demonstration to fully understand its abilities to mask human speech. You can get in touch here and fill out a form to request a sound masking demonstration. 

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