Demand for sound of silence booming

by 02 Dec 2011

Are you sick of hearing your colleagues chattering away on the phone?

What about the inane banter of staff with seemingly nothing to do?

And the non-stop phones ringing, raucous laughter, noisy meetings, group coffee orders.....How nice it would be if it would all melt into white noise.

Well now it can with the installation of a “sound masking” system which comprises ceiling speakers spraying a blissful hum in each room.

The $12,000 system is gaining popularity in Australia, and is especially popular in offices which deal with sensitive information, such as counseling services, and medical and legal practices.

The Victorian AIDS Council recently had a noise cancelling system installed, and counselling manager Christine Barca told the Sydney Morning Herald the new system has enhanced privacy, sounds much like a whirring fan, but is virtually unnoticeable once switched on.

“You certainly notice it when it's off because it feels quite strange. Then you turn it back on and you realise it's actually very soothing,” Barca said.

There is a large body of research which indicates we’re least productive when intermittent sounds are frequent, such as a barking dog, or a tapping pen.

Studies have shown that even if the annoying noise is still present, white noise makes the irritant less distracting.

Until recently, heating and cooling systems unwittingly did this in open-plan offices.

Purposeful sound-masking works by pumping a general hum into a room from multiple speakers, three to five metres apart, usually emanating from either the ceiling or the floor.


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