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  • Garrett Richey

Powerful Benefits of Sound Masking Systems for Businesses

Updated: May 2

While remote working and work-from-home (WFH) setups are becoming more popular than ever, that doesn't mean office work is dead. Working face-to-face with your colleagues often makes for faster collaboration, brainstorming, and teamwork.


But if there's something that many people don't miss about in-person work, it's the noise. The overlap of people talking, phones ringing, fax machines beeping, and other background sounds can be distracting — and, for some people, stressful.


Luckily, there's an easy and effective solution. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about sound masking, how these systems work, and why you should incorporate them into your workplace.


What is Sound Masking?

Sound masking (or noise masking) doesn’t actually eliminate noise. It’s a technique for reducing the perception of any unwanted noise in a room or area by covering it with ambient sound. Hence, the name masking


Now, the logic of adding more sound to make the room quieter might seem counterintuitive. However, it actually makes the room feel quieter because sound masking devices replace distracting noise with a less noticeable (and therefore less disruptive) sound.


How Does Sound Masking Work?

Sound masking technology works by emitting a constant low-level, broadband sound that's designed to be neutral so as not to be distracting. It sounds similar to the humming of an air conditioning unit or a white noise machine, though the two operate at different frequencies.


Coverage is an important factor since most sound masking devices can only mask sound in a limited radius around it. Because of this, they should be placed strategically in the room. It’s also important to consider different types of rooms and their noise levels. That’s why most sound masking systems allow you to adjust the volume and frequency of the sound generated so that you can match it to your room's requirements.


The Components of a Sound Masking System

At the heart of any sound masking system is the sound generator — the device responsible for creating the ambient sound. It often blends sounds from various frequencies, such as white or pink noise, to achieve the perfect audio mask.


The generated sound is then distributed to an array of speakers, which are what ultimately transmit the ambient sound for us to hear. The configuration of these speakers is important to maximize coverage in the space. As such, they're often placed in strategic places such as the ceiling, under raised floors, or corner walls.


The entire system can be controlled via a control panel, which allows administrators to adjust settings such as volume, frequency, and scheduling. In larger spaces, you can even control specific zones individually.


Benefits of a Sound Masking System

Here are some reasons why investing in office sound masking is a smart business decision. 


Improved Speech Privacy

One of the biggest problems with large open spaces is privacy. Sound masking can be a viable solution for that. In a smaller office, it might be hard for groups to talk without another person overhearing it. This can be problematic if you're discussing something confidential or private, such as a sensitive issue with another employee.


Sound masking can block the noise from leaving your vicinity, ensuring that no one else outside of your area can hear it. This is especially useful if you're in an open office setting without the benefit of private meeting rooms.


Reduced Distractions

One big challenge with working in an open office setting is the constant distraction from other people. The continuous flow of office chit-chat, computer sounds, and even noise from the street can be enough to distract employees from their work. 


Many people in workspaces without sound masking choose to use headphones to keep the noise out while they work. While it's a good solution, it's not viable for all situations. For instance, client-facing jobs such as customer service agents or sales reps can't use headphones because they're constantly on the phone. It can also be hard to interact with colleagues, and using headphones can result in safety risks, like not hearing a fire alarm. 


Sound masking can be a great alternative for these situations. They can reduce distractions while keeping people aware enough to respond easily to their teammates.


Enhanced Productivity

As we mentioned above, sound masking is invaluable for reducing distractions. A positive side effect of this is that it can drastically improve productivity. The data backs this up. According to a survey by Udemy, 75% of respondents reported being more productive in their work once distractions were reduced or eliminated. This can lead employees to finish their tasks faster and with fewer errors.


Aside from blocking distracting noises, a study conducted by the British Psychological Society found that the ambient sound of a masking system enables a person to have better concentration, improved creativity, reduced stress, and supercharged working memory. 


Increased Comfort and Well-being

A noisy environment isn’t just annoying or distracting — it can be stressful for some people. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, frequent loud noises can raise anxiety levels. Exposed over long periods, a person can become much more susceptible to stress. 


This is true for offices but more so for places where well-being is a must, such as hospitals and healthcare centers. For example, sound masking systems can create white noise that blocks out distracting sounds in hospital rooms. This can help patients sleep better and recover faster. Some mental health patients can also get agitated or distracted by sudden noises, which could worsen their condition and interfere with their treatment.


Confidentiality Support

In many industries, such as legal and healthcare, businesses are required to maintain a level of confidentiality and privacy in their spaces. For example, healthcare clinics should be soundproof enough that people outside the room can't hear any sensitive health topics discussed inside. It's the same issue in a law office, where confidential cases are discussed regularly.


Sound masking devices can help improve confidentiality by preventing sensitive topics from leaking out. Doing so not only upholds privacy but also helps businesses comply with regulations.


Better Acoustic Balance

Acoustic balance refers to managing sound properly in a space to ensure that it doesn't disrupt its intended purpose. For instance, libraries should be kept absolutely quiet, and thus, the acoustic balance should lean on the low side. Sound masking systems make it easier to achieve this balance because you can fine-tune the volume and frequency of the ambient sound generated to balance out the other noise in the room.


Another thing to consider is the balance between privacy and speech intelligibility. You don't want to block out the sound so drastically that it makes it hard for people to talk to each other. Fortunately, most sound masking systems have frequency and volume controls that allow you to fine-tune the ambient sound and help achieve balance.


Mitigation of Background Noise

In some office spaces, loud ambient noises are unavoidable. Whether it's the sound of a busy highway or a construction site nearby, most of these things are often beyond your control.


A sound masking system for office spaces and other workplace environments offers an effective solution. Most of these solutions can be customized to suit the unique acoustics of the space and its background noise, no matter how loud.


Use Cases for Sound Masking Systems

Now that you know sound masking systems and their benefits, the next question is: do you need one? To help you decide, here are some situations where sound masking technology is highly beneficial.


Offices

Offices are perhaps the most common use cases for sound masking systems. They should be used in every part of the office to reduce noise, improve productivity, and enhance privacy. It's especially vital in meeting and conference rooms, where most confidential information is discussed and shared.


Sound masking systems can also promote better communication within teams by reducing what's called the "Babble Effect." In effect, it makes it difficult to distinguish individual conversations from other people further away.


Healthcare Facilities

Sound masking systems are especially vital for healthcare facilities. Patients require a quiet space to maximize their sleep and recover from their illnesses. In addition, many high-risk procedures, such as surgeries and tests, should involve as little noise as possible so as not to distract doctors and nurses.


Unfortunately, hospitals can be noisy places with the constant discussions between staff, emergency situations, and the sounds of machines and equipment. Sound masking can be indispensable here. For example, they can be placed in patient rooms so that they can rest better. They're also important to be placed in doctor's clinics to prevent the leaking of confidential healthcare information and improve privacy.


Educational Institutions

Excessive noise in school and university environments can disrupt learning, distract students, and make communication harder. Sound masking systems can help mitigate some of these issues.


For instance, sound generators can be placed in classrooms to reduce external noises such as hallway conversations, footsteps, or HVAC systems. This allows students to focus more on learning. Places such as libraries or study centers also benefit from having a quiet environment. Sound masking systems reduce noise pollution, alleviating stress and fatigue among students and staff alike. 


Retail Spaces

It might come as a surprise, but retail stores could also use a little noise reduction. Luxury stores, for example, exude a sense of sophistication that too much ambient sound can ruin. Sound masking systems can create a less distracting shopping experience by eliminating any annoying noise. This enhances the customer experience and encourages them to stay longer, increasing their chances of buying more and boosting your revenue.


As well as benefiting customers, sound masking can also help employees stay productive and alert. It encourages them to assist customers more and provide superior customer service.



Optimize Your Workplace with Signal Solutions

Once you've decided to adopt a sound masking system for your business, the next step is installation. Because the wiring can be complex, sound masking technology requires a professional setup — especially if you have a large space.


This is where Signal Solutions comes in. As one of the trusted AV installation and structured cabling specialists in California for over 33 years, we can help install sound masking systems and other audio-visual systems for savvy businesses. 


You can rely on our experienced team of project managers and engineers to deliver high-quality work each and every time. Just ask our dozens of clients, from small mom-and-pop stores to established brands like Amazon and Six Flags.


Want us to work on your next project? Contact us today to learn more! 


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