When you end up in a hospital, the last thing that you think of is: is it going to be too loud? Rather, you're thinking about your health, or the health of a loved one, and overall healing and getting better. So, how can noise impair this?
The mission of many hospitals is to not only rehabilitate a patient's body but their mind and spirit as well. Sleep and low stress levels are integral to the healing process; however, hospital environments are noisy and can disrupt patients and cause privacy concerns. Excessive noise and lack of sleep are the two top concerns and complaints patients have when staying in a hospital. When a patient is unable to sleep due to noise, it weakens their immune systems, impacts recuperation, and increases the likelihood of having to return after being released. What are hospitals doing to combat this significant issue? They are investing in sound masking systems.
When people hear sound masking, they tend to think of white noise. However, they are not alike at all. White noise is sort of like a loud AM radio with static that gets more irritating the louder it gets. Taking that into consideration, you need an intense amount of white noise to cover up the sound of human speech - causing more harm than good for everyone involved. White noise includes all frequencies at equal energy, which is the cause of irritation.
Sound masking, by comparison, only includes some frequencies. These frequencies match that of human speech patterns. Concentrating on only putting out waves that mimic the human voice allows for an experience that is less noticeable and even more pleasant to the human ear. Sound masking, when properly implemented, fades into the background "hum" of any space, much like the sound of airflow.
Sound masking works so well because it doesn't cancel or eliminate noise; instead, it adds ambient sound to the environment, which makes other sounds less distracting. When sound masking is implemented, conversations and the human voice don't drift as far from the speaker. This essentially creates a bubble around the speakers, as it eliminates the ability for outsiders to listen in. This keeps your privacy maintained and makes it easier for hospitals to comply with HIPAA regulations while lowering stress and allowing patients to feel more comfortable disclosing personal information integral to the healing process.
Sound masking systems are custom designed and specifically installed with your facility in mind. Backed by a detailed installation plan, these systems account for every nearby light fixture, wall, and even the material of your ceiling. The speakers (emitters) are laid out in a grid, appropriately spaced and adjusted by the intensity that is optimal for the environment. There are two different ways to install sound masking, and this has to be thought about upon installation:
- Direct field sound masking aims the emitters downwards so that obstructions don't interfere with the sound masking. These speakers are hooked up to the ceilings and face toward the room. This is the newer approach for maximum uniformity and allows for optimal masking.
- Networked or indirect sound masking systems enable individual speaker level control, which means each person can control and adjust their masking system. These emitters are indirect; that is, they point up toward the ceiling. Usually, a drop ceiling is involved in this process. This means the frequency goes upwards, bounces off the ceiling, then comes back down.
Each approach is beneficial in their own ways and genuinely depend on the environment to see which one is better than the other. However, sound masking, in general, is very beneficial to hospitals, as it is a tool for them to maintain a calm, quiet, and healing (as well as confidential) environment for their patients.