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Noise - Environmental   - Home Insulation - Masking

Solving Problems by Making More (Masking) Noise

There are some noises which are easy to ignore; they tend to be bland, broad-band sounds with a fairly constant level, e.g. fan heaters, air-conditioning or waterfalls all produce this type of noise. By contrast many intrusive "problem" noises change rapidly in level and have unusual tones or impulses and may contain information (speech or music). The principle of masking noise or "sound masking" is to generate a "bland" noise at such a level that it masks the "problem" noise, such as the neighbour's party, or the telephone conversation at the next desk.

The masking sound can be produced by

  • "natural" means such as a large fountain in the garden, whereby occupants of the garden will notice other noise such as traffic or train noise less (if at all);
  • "semi-naturally" by installing "noisy" air-conditioning in a building so that it masks both internally generated noise such as telephone conversations, and external generated sounds such as transportation noise;
  • finally the noise can be successfully produced "artificially" by electronic means; mostly this is used for dealing with internal noise environments particularly where confidentiality is important. The directory can be consulted for details of suppliers of sound masking.

Masking sound has great potential to reduce the impact of noise in the workplace and the home; however most people find it difficult to accept the idea that increasing noise levels will reduce the noise problem.

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