DIY Sound Masking

Sumei FitzGerald

Noise pollution is a serious problem. Noise can increase high blood pressure and stress levels. Distracting noise negatively affects working environments and reduces concentration and productivity. The best soundproofing methods are those used during the construction of a building. Other alternatives, such as buying air conditioners, carpeting, insulation and acoustic-proofed doors and windows, can be costly. Sound masking is an easy and thrifty way to counteract unwanted noise with pleasant sounds. Fans, music and nature sounds are soothing alternatives that mask unpleasant noise, reduce distractions and protect private conversations.

It's a noisy world.
    Measure the unwanted noise to determine what you need to mask it.
  1. Measure the noise. In order to determine the level of sound you need to mask the unpleasant noise, you must first measure the level of the noise. You can buy a sound-level meter at your local electronics store. Set the sound-level meter to “A-weighting” and slow response and measure the unwanted noise when it is at its loudest point. This will help you balance the volume level of the sound-masking method that you choose. In an open office environment, the sound-masking level should be 3 to 5 decibels louder than speech coming from other work stations.

  2. Outdoor fountains require water force and flow in order to be effective.
  3. Purchase an outdoor water fountain from your local home and garden store to mask unpleasant noise from highways and other noise sources. The fountain needs to expel water 4 to 5 feet in the air with a minimum flow rate of 1000 to 2000 gallons of water per hour to successfully mask highway noise. You can build your own water fountain by assembling a basin, a fountain nozzle, plumbing and a submersible pump. A fountain with variable water flow will allow you to adjust your sound-masking levels according to need.

  4. Water must hit a hard surface in order to mask unpleasant noise.
  5. Buy an indoor water fountain. The water must fall and then splash onto a hard surface or pool of water in order to be an effective sound-masking device. Remember to choose your indoor water fountain based upon the results of your sound-level meter measurements. Experiment with adjustable water flow rate and the distance the water fountain will be placed from you to gauge how well the fountain sounds will balance unpleasant noise. Use the sound-level meter to help you.

  6. Open offices need sound masking to improve concentration and productivity.
  7. Use a speaker system to convey other sound-masking devices such as background music, nature sounds or white noise. Volume control is necessary and random sounds more effectively mask unpleasant noise than repetitive patterns. A repeating sequence of sounds can become a distraction.

  8. Warning

    Sound masking doesn’t really reduce unwanted sounds; it only covers them. If you need very high levels of sound to combat unpleasant noise, the overall loudness may worsen the situation rather than improve it.