A variety of elements can be employed to address noise control and speech privacy for added worker productivity, comfort and confidentiality. Collectively referred to by the architectural community as the ABC’s of acoustic design, solutions can either absorb, block, scatter (officially called “diffusion”), or “cover” sound. An effective solution may include involve one, two or a combination of all three methods. Designed to cover noise, sound masking checks the “cover” box.
In contrast to acoustic treatments which absorb noise, sound masking is actually the addition of sound created by digital generators. Sound Masking is an ambient sound that’s engineered to the match the frequency of human speech, targeting conversational noise and make it less distracting by rendering it unintelligible. Sound masking is not white noise and does not cancel sound or eliminate all speech noise in an environment; it simply reduces how far conversations can extend and be clearly understood by others. Its frequency varies significantly from the irritating, garbled static of white noise. Instead, it is engineered to match the pleasing frequency range of the human voice. When implemented properly, sound masking will simply fade into the background of a workplace while simultaneously making speech more difficult to hear and, more importantly, to understand.
Sound Masking, as a means of contributing to speech privacy, is a desirable solution for financial institutions, doctors’ offices, law offices, hotel lobbies and more. By rendering speech intelligible, it not only protects the privacy of students, clients and workers, but can contribute to HIPPA compliance of patients’ confidential information.
Sound Masking: How and when to Activate
It’s human nature. You’re sitting in a room and suddenly something “turns on”. Is it the HVAC…an appliance…? You’re now aware of it. Instead, if you were to enter that same space after it was already “on”, you very well may not even notice it was on at all. That’s how sound masking should be considered. Rather than activating it while the room is occupied, workers will find it more pleasing if it’s activated while they are away and walking in once implemented. For the best ongoing results, activate and deactivate automatically while the space is unoccupied.
For environment having widely varying noise levels, an “active volume control” can be added to the system to measure the conversational speech levels and adjust the system’s output as the noise levels rise and fall. With the system staying in-sync with the environmental noise and, therefore, performing at optimal levels, the occupants would be unaware of any variance in sound level. Manual volume control, on the other hand, is not recommended and defeats the transparent operation of the system.
Acoustical treatments are another solution for noise control, providing barriers and sound absorption which lessen overall noise levels and reduce reverberation from hard surfaces but, unlike sound masking, does not contribute to speech unintelligibility.
So, what’s the right combination of noise control solutions? Do you want to make your office environment more comfortable and productive and your waiting area or private offices more secure? Call SoundVision today to schedule a complimentary consultation for your space.
Good Acoustics Are Crucial, Commercial Architecture Magazine