Sound masking can be used anywhere to ensure speech privacy or reduce distractions. Sound masking is typically used in selected workspaces but it can also be helpful in residential environments. The most common sound masking installations are:
- Open office plans - open offices can be either too quiet (where someone dropping a pen in the next cubicle is distracting) - or too noisy (where the conversations of others in the office make it impossible to concentrate). Open offices can benefit from sound masking because the added sound covers existing sounds in the area - making workers less distracted and more productive.
- Private offices - private offices and other enclosed spaces often appear to provide privacy but actually do not. Many times, walls are lightweight and do not extend to the ceiling deck - only to the ceiling tile. In these cases, sound can easily travel through partitions or over the walls. Sound masking can be provided in adjacent private offices, or in hallways outside of private offices, to ensure that confidential conversations remain confidential.
- Public spaces - sound masking is useful for reception areas, pharmacies, waiting rooms, and financial institutions. Sound masking is provided in the area where conversations should not be heard - not necessarily in the area where the conversation is taking place. For instance, a psychiatrist does not want those in the waiting room to overhear private conversation with a patient so sound masking is provided in the waiting area: not in the psychiatrist's office.
Sound masking may also be used to hide other unwanted noise, such as the intermittent sounds from machinery. In an office this could be sound of elevators and compressors. Sound masking may render conversations unintelligible by nearby listeners and may this help compliance with HIPAA and GLBA regulations,