• Positively Impact Your Space with Sound Masking

    March 21, 2018
  • Positively Impact Your Space with Sound Masking
    By: Dustin Hertel, Senior Account Executive

    Have you ever been in a physician’s office and overheard the conversations taking place in the exam room next door while you’re waiting for your turn?  You don’t really want to hear that private conversation, but your brain can’t help but interpret what is being said unless you do something that takes your mind off of it – headphones, humming, your own conversation, etc.  And then it occurs to you, “If I’m hearing those private conversations, are others hearing the conversations that I’m having with my physician?”

    What about the sound that you hear coming from the hallways and nurse station when you are a patient or a guest in a hospital?  Rest is typically a key component to the healing process within hospitals, but if you are hearing details of conversations, and specific sounds in general, it makes it very hard to truly rest.  Like the previous scenario, you also have to consider the need for sounds and conversations taking place within the room to remain within that space and not leak into the hallway.

    As a patient you aren’t likely to be comfortable with either of these scenarios, but it is equally undesirable if you are the healthcare facility where this is occurring.  Many times, hospitals and clinics insulate their interior walls to muffle such sound, but sometimes this is overlooked or isn’t sufficient enough to positively impact HCAHPS scores or comply with HIPAA standards.  This is where sound masking, often referred to as white or pink noise, can positively impact the situation.

    By adding sound emitters (speakers), typically mounted within the ceiling or plenum space, you can create the white or pink noise that can make conversations or sounds unintelligible.  These sound emitters wire back to the headend controller and allows one to maintain separate zones within a facility and control the volume of each zone independently.  With this level of control, you can finetune the volume for different spaces that require different levels of volume based on the size, height, and materials (flooring, ceiling, walls, etc.) used within that space.  For example, you may need a much higher volume in a reception area where several conversations are taking place at once than you would in side by side exam rooms.

    It is a common misconception (one that even I used to believe) that sound masking eliminates sound.  While it does make sound unintelligible (think Charlie Brown’s teacher), a sound masking system is actually adding ambient sound to the environment.  This sound is designed to match the frequency of human speech to essentially “blur” that sound so that your brain doesn’t focus and interpret the speech as it would if understood the specific words in sequence.  Now this is a gross understatement and generalization of what sound masking is, but it does provide a base understanding as to why these systems work well in hospital, clinic, and open office environments where there is often very little to break up sound within the space.  ESCO Communications has a great deal of experience with various sound masking systems and offers the expertise of laying out a system that is specific to the unique audible challenges that may exist within your facility.  Please reach out to us for more information or to schedule a walk through of your space.