I need to mask the noise that comes from my office
December 23, 2010 9:33 AM   Subscribe

I need to mask the noise that comes from my office. What's a simple way to do this?

I'm the director of a small program, which means that I am sometimes making calls about personnel information that needs to remain confidential. I don't have a loud voice but one of my staff came to me today and said they could hear every word of my conversation, even with the door closed. How do I best mask the sound coming from my office? I would prefer to have something I can place in my office rather than out in the common areas due to the nature of the program and the people we serve.
posted by whatideserve to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've seen therapists use a white noise generator for this purpose.
posted by phoenixy at 9:34 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

These are what psychiatrists use.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:35 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

What phoenixy and Sidhedevil said.

I have the exact model that was posted above, I use it for sleep and it works awesome. There are different noise levels you can set it to and it will definitely block out sound without being distracting for you.
posted by Sal and Richard at 9:40 AM on December 23, 2010

To be clear, a white-noise machine would go *outside* your office to mask the sounds you're making inside it. Inside your office it would just keep you from hearing the sounds that everyone else is making. I'm not fully confident that it would work anyway—my office space has plenty of ambient white noise but when a loud person goes into one of the conference rooms, the general acoustics of the space make their conversation clear anyway. But it's worth a shot.
posted by xueexueg at 10:01 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't find the article I read a few years ago, but the gist is that the best mask for your voice is your own voice. So record yourself reading something and just play that back through an ipod speaker dock that you can put on the floor near the door.
posted by hummercash at 10:14 AM on December 23, 2010

Best answer: Do you have bare walls in your office? Hanging things to absorb sound on your walls and office door will help.

An easy way to make wall hangings cheaply is to buy fabric that you like, and some canvas stretchers/frames and use a staple gun along the back of the frames to attach the fabric taut.

Also, if sound is existing under the door, a fabric door draft stopper could also help.
posted by effigy at 10:19 AM on December 23, 2010

I've never tried this, but you could look into something like Babble. From the website:

"Babble captures your voice electronically, multiplies and scrambles it, then projects it from speakers that sit on your desk and provide 180-degree coverage. White-noise units mask some sound, but only Babble offers true voice confidentiality. "

NYTimes had a little piece on it a few years ago.
posted by Tu13es at 11:06 AM on December 23, 2010

there was a question about "snorkel" microphones which is a slightly expensive solution w.r.t. phone calls
posted by squishles at 11:12 AM on December 23, 2010

There are also foams for noise abatement applications. You basically drill holes in the dry wall and fill the space with foam. It is not going to soundproof your space, but it should help. I used this in my old apartment for a common wall with a noisy neighbor. Before the foam, I heard every word of her often personal telephone conversations--even when I didn't want to. Afterward, I knew when she received calls, but couldn't make out the words without putting my ear to the wall. YMMV.
posted by Hylas at 11:21 AM on December 23, 2010

Build your own Cone of Silence from Get Smart. Not sure how effective it is, but it would sure look cool.
posted by CathyG at 12:01 PM on December 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. My concern about the noise machine is what xueexueg said - it would block me from hearing them but not necessarily them from hearing me. I haven't been here long and my walls are bare so I'll try what effigy suggested and go from there. Thanks again for all the suggestions!
posted by whatideserve at 12:30 PM on December 23, 2010

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