Ear Plugs vs Sound Machines vs. Sound Masking Systems

Like light, sound is a wave and spreads out in all directions from a source.  Hard surfaces reflect it, walls block it, and soft surfaces absorb it.  Other sounds can cover it up.  But unimpeded, sound can travel relatively far.  Ever hear the saying, “it’s so quiet you could hear a pin drop?”  The reason you can “hear a pin drop” over distances is because there’s nothing to cover or otherwise impede the sound from being detected by your ears.  This is where sound masking comes in.  Like its name implies, sound masking masks, or covers, sound for two main reasons:

  1. Reduce distractions in offices.  Sound masking reduces distractions by making speech less intelligible so that workers aren’t constantly focusing on it.
  2. Provide confidential privacy.  Some facilities {government, military, trade secrets} require confidentiality and need specific conversations to be unheard.

There are several ways to sound mask, and all are excellent resources, though some are more valuable than others dependent upon the circumstance or type of noise.  Here is a basic guide to what to use and when.

  • Ear plugsEar plugs are a long-time resource foe the weary traveler or seasoned parent.  Not exactly sound maskers per se, they function more as blockers. n They are great for blocking near-by or in-room noise, such as a snoring spouse, a barking dog, or cafe chatter.  The only downsides are that ear plugs are hard to wear for long periods of time if you have sensitive ears.  Also, they do wear out and require back-ups.
  • Sound Machines: Sound machines, or white noise generators, are great for individual users at home or in offices.  Most are small, many are portable, and a good number offer sound therapy for tinnitus or just the nature lover in you.  Sound machines are adjustable so they can provide various levels of volume and therefore can cover even louder noises or environments.
  • Sound Masking Systems: Similar to sound machines, sound masking systems also use white noise to mask unwanted noise.  The difference is that they are more of a corporate solution, rather than just individual.  Speakers are installed in the ceiling tiles and specific zones can be treated within an office, hospital, agency, or facility.

Sound masking is a valuable resource for individuals and businesses alike and can counteract the effects of unwanted noise.

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