What is Sound Masking?

Sound masking technology is a critical component of acoustic design.

Sound masking by definition is “the process of adding to an environment a low level of unobtrusive background sound engineered to protect confidentiality and reduce distractions by reducing the intelligibility of speech, thus making the acoustical environment, more comfortable.” – Cambridge Sound Management

It consists of three different types of sound masking, often referred to as the ABC’s of sound masking:

            Absorb: Acoustic wall panels, carpet, ceiling tiles help absorb excess sound

            Block: Solid barriers, partitions, and walls help block excess sound

            Cover: Sound masking helps cover up excess sound

How Does Sound Masking Work?

Adding sound masking technology to a space, such as artificial airflow noise or low-level background music, makes it seem quieter because it reduces speech intelligibility and interruptions of transient sounds around you, such as the copy machine or co-worker conversations. If you don’t understand what others are saying you don’t get distracted by them, allowing for more focus and better processing of information, resulting in higher work-efficiency. By decreasing the radius of distraction, or the area that speech and noise travels, conversations across the room become unintelligible causing fewer interruptions.

Why Do You Need Sound Masking?

Most workplaces now have open floor plans and smaller shared spaces but are built with less sound blocking or absorbing materials. This creates acoustic challenges and has been shown to negatively impact workplace satisfaction, productivity and speech privacy. If buildings are missing the foundational absorbing and blocking materials, the next best thing is sound masking with unobtrusive background noise coverage.

Studies done have shown that the majority of people are unhappy with their workplace speech privacy, even those in private offices. The U.S General Services Administration conducted a study on office acoustics satisfaction and found that only those with private office spaces had some satisfaction with their speech privacy. Even so, their satisfaction was only rated at a .55 out of 2.

1. Lack of speech privacy is the number one concern of employees.

According to a study done by The Center for the Built Environment in Berkeley, CA, speech privacy was the number one concern out of the 25,000 employees surveyed – ranging from those with completely open office spaces to those with completely private office spaces. 

2. Distractions make employees less productive and this costs employers money.

According to UC Irvine study, an employee is interrupted every 11 minutes and can take up to 23 minutes to get back into the groove of what they were doing. Another study showed that the average employee wastes 21.5 minutes a day on conversational distractions, which equates to about $200,000.00 a year in lost productivity for a company of 100 employees.

 3. Sound masking helps your employees concentrate and work more efficiently.

It has been shown that sound masking increases word and number recollection (7.8% increase and 8.7% increase respectively), meaning employees are less distracted and can focus and process information more efficiently.

 4. Sound masking technology will protect confidentiality and reduces liability issues in the workplace when sensitive information is being shared.

Legal and regulatory organizations such as HIPPA, GLBA, LEED, HCAHPS and FERPA highly promote the utilization of sound masking to protect individuals from having private information shared or overheard.

Who Can Benefit From Sound Masking?

Everyone – It is an extremely useful and versatile technology. Business owners, facility/property managers, HR managers and privacy and compliance managers, healthcare administrators, employees, architects, general consultants, and contractors can all benefit from sound masking technology.

Where Should Sound Masking Be Used?

  • Open office/private office/outside of conference rooms
  • Engineering/research labs, co-share spaces, huddle rooms
  • Libraries, classrooms, testing centers
  • Hotel rooms, reception areas, spas
  • Hospitals and clinics, offices/counseling areas, pharmacies
  • Retail banks, call centers, boardrooms
  • Secured facilities, courtrooms, law offices
  • Airport lounges, houses of worship office, conference centers

Where Can I Find A Sound Masking System?

Pro Acoustics offers a variety of sound masking system options. You can start by checking out are pre-configured sound masking systems here and contact us to get a quote. Also feel free to give us a call to discuss building a custom system that suits the sound masking requirements of your space.