Sound Masking for Privacy and Security

HOUSTON TX – SOUND MASKING TECHNOLOGY helps organizations who are challenged with balancing the needs of open workspaces with the potential distractions or information security issues that can arise from these open environments.    In this article we present common challenges faced by many organizations and give an overview of sound masking technology and how it is able to overcome these challenges.

Typical Challenges

Sound masking is used anywhere speech privacy or speech confidentiality is desired or required and in any workspace to reduce distractions and improve productivity.

Open Office Plans

Open Office Floor-plan

Open Office Floor-plan

Open offices are often either too quiet – where hearing the occasional pin drop breaks concentration – or too noisy, where the conversations of co-workers are distracting and affect productivity.

Installing a sound masking system is a cost-effective step to improving speech privacy in your open office and creating a highly productive open office work environment with fewer distractions.

Private Offices

Private offices and other enclosed spaces, while appearing to provide privacy, often do not. Frequently the walls are of lightweight materials or extend only to the ceiling tiles and not all the way to the ceiling deck. Often these decisions are made for cost reasons and for flexibility of reconfiguring the office space. Adding sound masking to a private office greatly improves speech privacy by rendering private conversations completely unintelligible to listeners in the adjacent office or hallway.

Public Spaces

Reception Area

Reception Area

Reception areas, pharmacies, waiting rooms, banks and public hallways next to private offices are all great candidates for sound masking systems. Without sound masking, private conversations can be heard in the adjacent public spaces. Installing a sound masking system renders private conversations unintelligible by nearby listeners, ensuring speech privacy.  Sound masking is a cost-effective way to comply with the speech privacy requirements of HIPAA and GLBA regulations.


Hospital Patient Room

Hospital Patient Room Comfort

Speech privacy is virtually non-existent in public spaces such as waiting areas, open counters common in pharmacies, and nurse stations. Patients can feel uncomfortable speaking freely to medical professionals for fear of being overheard by other patients.   

Also, for patients staying in a hospital room, noise and distractions from the adjoining spaces prevents them from resting and sleeping soundly.   Sound masking systems make conversations more difficult to hear or comprehend, reducing the patient’s fear of being overheard.   It can also help patients sleep better by covering startling voices that can disturb their rest and recuperation. Finally, it can contribute to fulfilling HIPAA requirements and raise HCAPHS scores, resulting in greater Medicare funding.

Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIF):

Many organizations and agencies deal with highly sensitive information (from courthouses, law offices, embassies to government/military) and therefore need enhanced information security.  One of the effective methods recommended by the CIA for information security is sound masking.


CIA Directive: Acoustical Control and Sound Masking Techniques:

1.0 Acoustical protection measures and sound masking systems are designed to protect SCI against being inadvertently overheard by the casual passerby…

3.2 Masking of sound which emanates from an SCI discussion area is commonly done by a sound masking system.

4.3 Once the speakers or transducers are optimally placed, the system volume must be set and fixed. The level for each speaker should be determined by listening to conversations occurring within the SCIF and the masking sound and adjusting the level until conversations are unintelligible from outside the SCIF.

5.1 The sound masking system and all wires and transducers shall be located within the perimeter of the SCIF.

6.0 The sound source must be obtained from a player unit located within the SCIF. Any device equipped with a capability to record ambient sound within the SCIF must have that capability disabled.

Any organization that needs to protect privacy or the security of information can benefit from a Sound Masking system.

Cambridge Qt Quiet Technology Overview:

Cambridge Qt Sound Masking

Cambridge Qt Sound Masking

Cambridge Sound Management is a leading developer of sound masking systems – utilizing their Qt Quiet Technology™.   Sound masking is the addition of a familiar sounding, air conditioning-like background sound to an environment.

Masking covers up or “masks” human speech and helps mitigate the distraction of other sounds, making an environment more comfortable, workers more productive and creating speech privacy.

Here’s an analogy. Imagine that you are in a darkened room and a child is flicking a flashlight on and off. The light is noticeable and distracting. Now imagine the lights are on. The same flashlight is being flicked on and off—but without notice—it has been “masked.” This is how sound masking works.

Optimum spectrum

The sound produced with a Qt Quiet technology based sound masking system mirrors the spectrum of the human voice and is delivered uniformly throughout the coverage area. Direct field technology means the spectrum is not distorted by the frequency dependent acoustical characteristics of the ceiling assembly or the acoustical spatial variance in the above-ceiling plenum space. Amazingly, the variation in the spectral balance at any office or cubicle is typically within 1 decibel of optimum at any octave band over the entire critical voice frequency range of 250 Hz to 4,000 Hz.

Natural and Unobtrusive

The system comprises four entirely separate incoherent channels all the way from digital generating source to emitters (loudspeakers). Four channels accurately simulate the turbulent air eddies of HVAC system air movement. This allows the system to sound entirely natural and unobtrusive. Users are not subjected to harsh sound quality due to acoustical interference effects caused by adjacent coherent radiators so common with plenum based masking systems.  In addition, Qt Quiet technology based sound masking systems provide a uniform sound throughout the targeted space. Listeners do not move in and out of “hot” spots as they would with an in-plenum system and notice the background sound.

Low operating level

It does not have to be loud to be effective.  The spatial and spectral uniformity delivered by the Qt Quiet Technology sound masking system permits its operation at substantially lower sound levels than competitive systems while maintaining masking effectiveness. While many masking systems must be operated at 48-50 dBA in a well-designed open plan office in order to provide acceptable privacy conditions for most occupants, the Qt Quiet Technology sound masking system is normally operated at 45 dBA under the same conditions. The result is dramatically reduced acoustical obtrusiveness and user awareness of the system.

Independent Zone Control

Multiple independent zones can be defined, to enable different sound masking levels to be defined for each zone.   In a typical open-office area with adjacent private offices and reception area,  the masking sound intended for the open office is entirely restricted to the open area. If masking is desired in the adjoining private offices or reception areas, then a separate zone can be provided, with completely independent control of level.


AVTG Can Deploy Your Sound Masking Solution:

Audio Visual Technologies Group, Inc. (AVTG) is a Houston, TX-based company established in 1952. AVTG is focused on providing customers with the industry’s most advanced audio visual, digital signage, and video conferencing technologies. We strive to provide the best system integration solutions, applications and deployment options to meet our customers’ business needs.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.