Unwanted noise can ruin meetings, degrade the quality of audio tracks, and even cause stress. There are many ways to reduce unwanted noise.
Insulation helps block sounds, as does soundproofing. Wall paneling is available in styles that can blend into office decor.
Noise reduction uses filters that create a new signal to cancel out the unwanted one. Some use gates that quickly drop the level of the desired signal.
Install a Noise-Canceling Headset
The simplest way to reduce noise in the background while listening to music or having a phone conversation is by using headphones with built-in active noise cancellation. These headsets from Agora typically use more prominent speakers and cushions to enclose the ears, creating a barrier separating your audio from ambient sounds.
They are also typically designed to eliminate sound waves that cause distractions, such as a coworker’s kids or dogs barking, which can negatively impact your ability to focus and communicate with customers.
The noise-canceling technology in these headsets uses microphones to listen to the ambient sounds around you, creating an inverse of that sound wave. This cancels out the natural sound and gives you a more immersive experience. They do well with low, harmonic noise, such as humming refrigerators or fans, but struggle with louder, irregular office noise. However, they still provide a noticeable improvement.
Install a Noise-Canceling Mic
Using a computer for audio editing and recording, you can reduce ambient noise with a microphone attached to your device. You can also use software programs like Audacity to remove ambient sound from recordings once they are created.
Another way to decrease ambient noise is using soundproofing material in your home or office. This can be expensive and difficult to install, but it can make a huge difference in your ability to record without background noise.
When you are recording, it is essential to eliminate all ambient sounds your microphone could pick up. This can include closing windows, turning off any running fans or air conditioners, and removing any electrical devices from the vicinity of your microphone (e.g., radios, televisions). Also, be sure not to cross the mic cables over power cords — they can create electromagnetic interference that your microphone can pick up.
Install a Noise-Canceling Speaker
During a conference call, background noise like a fan or loud keyboard typing can disrupt your audio quality. One solution is to use a noise-canceling speaker. This type of speaker is engineered to remove ambient sounds during a video call using artificial intelligence.
Active noise cancellation (ANC) works by listening to the ambient sound through a microphone and playing back an exact opposite sound wave that cancels out the original one – the positive pressure peaks of the problem noise are canceled with negative pressure troughs in the opposite signal, effectively eliminating it. This technology is used in headphones, cars, and even high-end speakers.
Install a Noise-Canceling Ceiling Fan
If you’re having trouble sleeping or concentrating due to noisy neighbors or traffic, try using a fan to mask the sounds. The humming sound produced by many newer ceiling fans and standing fans acts as white noise that drowns out other sounds.
Another way to mask unwanted noise is by adding rugs and furniture with plush surfaces. Sound tends to bounce off hard floors and blank existing walls, and these surfaces often create an echo. Adding carpet or just area rugs helps absorb the sound and reduce the echo.
For more advanced soundproofing, install acoustic foam on your walls and ceiling. This material can reduce the sound that echoes off the surface and is relatively inexpensive to install. However, this method will only partially stop neighbors from talking loudly or other external sounds that may still come through. You’ll also need to address other room areas to quiet your space entirely.
Install a Noise-Canceling Ceiling Panel
While acoustic panels can drastically reduce the noise between floors, they cannot stop sound from entering your space. You must decouple your ceiling from the joists and add mass.
Most people struggle to soundproof their ceiling because it’s typically a construction project that requires new drywall, vinyl barriers, acoustic foam, and clips that decouple the joists. Fortunately, you can also use non-permanent items like fabrics and curtains to mitigate noise effectively.
Drape your fabric over wires stretched between studs and attach them to hooks screwed into the joists using picture-hanging drywall anchors. Then, you can easily remove the material and the pins when you’re not soundproofing. You can further improve the effectiveness of this method by adding an air gap behind the acoustic treatment. A simple strip of MDF or framing lumber creates an extra barrier between the hearing panel and the ceiling to limit echo.
Install a Noise-Canceling Ceiling Tile
If you have a lot of noise in your home, adding sound-absorbing ceiling tiles can help reduce it. These ceiling panels are made of compressed, Styrofoam-like beads and feature a hollow center that funnels noise waves into the meetings to be absorbed. They’re lightweight, easy to install, and paintable. They also come in various colors and textures; some are antibacterial and fungus-resistant, making them perfect for medical facilities.
Another simple way to combat noise is by installing a soundproof cubicle partition. These are usually floor-to-ceiling and include thick material that blocks noise from escaping between cubicles. This is an excellent solution for offices where employees are constantly talking over each other or for people living in apartment buildings where neighbors’ conversations can be heard.
If you want a more permanent solution to noisy ceilings, consider installing sound-absorbing drop ceilings. These secondary ceilings are a popular option because they can hide wiring and ductwork while improving the acoustics of your space. They’re available in various sizes and materials, but the most effective ones are fiberglass or melamine foam.