Sound Masking vs White Noise

Sound masking is often misunderstood as white noise. Both are designed to minimize distractions and increase focus, so what’s the difference? Let’s dive into it!

What is White Noise?

White noise refers to a noise that contains all frequencies across the spectrum of audible sound in equal measure. White noise spans multiple bands of sound, so it is sometimes referred to as broadband noise. Researchers have studied the effect of white noise on humans for many years, finding evidence it can reduce crying in infants, helps promote sleep, improve work performance, and potentially help counteract symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

What is Sound Masking?

Sound masking makes a building seem quieter by raising the ambient noise level of an environment and making speech noise less intelligible (therefore less distracting). When you can’t understand what someone is saying, their words are less distracting — in fact, you probably don’t even notice them!

How are White Noise and Sound Masking Different?

Unlike white noise, sound masking is specifically engineered to match the frequencies of human speech and to sound comfortable, even pleasant, to the human ear. When implemented properly, it should just fade into the background “hum” of a workplace while simultaneously making speech more difficult to hear and understand.

Conversely, the frequency of white noise would be extremely irritating if it were amplified to a volume that would be effective for masking human speech — think “loud AM radio static.” It might cover up the sounds of human speech, but not effectively or efficiently since it is not specifically engineered to do so.

Where can Sound Masking be Used?

Sound masking systems are commonly used in open-office spaces to minimize noise distractions, increase speech privacy and optimize work productivity. These solutions are also must-haves today for hospitals, clinics, and therapy offices to protect patient privacy. The solution can help improve HCAHPS scores and help meet HIPAA compliance in healthcare facilities.

Are you interested in implementing a sound masking system in your space? Contact Livewire today to get started!