White Noise & The Office

I’ll admit that I still watch the office, though I just as quickly follow up that statement with this one- it’s more out of a sense of closure as it wraps up this season.  I was amused by yet another misuse of white noise- people rarely understand how it actually works.  So, you might recall that recently the characters on the Office saw the promo for their show in the US, as well as Denmark, etc.  They’re excited, then confused, then nervous, then downright terrified of what they see: their secret yet not so secret moments.  For 10 years they’ve had no privacy and while the world has known it, somehow Michael and Dwight and Pam and Jim and Phyllis and Meredith and Creed and Angela and everyone else has somehow missed hidden cameras and mikes….much to their chagrin.  Now they’re rethinking every step and every conversation.  Here’s where the white noise confusion comes in.  In their attempt to make a plan to cover their tracks, Angela and Oscar meet in a “private” hallway with a radio.  Angela flips the radio on and assumes {erroneously} that their conversation is confidential.

Understanding How White Noise Works

I can’t tell you how frequently I run into this…not Office episodes per se, but people not really understanding how white noise works.  You can’t just flip a switch and all of a sudden fly under the radar.  That would be nice, but ti simply doesn’t work that way. Let’s talk about how it does.  Because white noise is unstructured sound, it makes it much more difficult for our minds to discern individual words and other structured sounds. To put it another way, white noise “fills in” the sound spectrum and the brain isn’t bothered or distracted by the surrounding conversations.  This achieves speech privacy, but only if placed correctly.  Rather than grab a portable radio and carry it around, only to have it garble what you yourself hear, sound masking systems have speakers purposefully placed so that  speech privacy is actually accomplished.  Thus, placement is crucial for effective masking.

The bottom line is that confidentiality can be had, but not with random noise.  Sound masking is a technology that can work for any facility when properly installed, which is actually pretty affordable and easy to do.

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