Satisfying super-sensitive complainants with psychological silencing

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Courtesy of Industrial Noise and Vibration Centre

If you play white noise to a group of people and tell them that the song “White Christmas” is hidden in the sound, about 30% of them will be convinced that they can hear it. The human mind is always looking for patterns – even when they aren’t there. This propensity explains a significant proportion of complaints where noise levels are actually very low (they can be close to, or below, the threshold of hearing at low frequencies) or the complainant has mild tinnitus. The imagined pattern may be triggered by low level noise that isn’t itself the real cause of the subjective “nuisance”. Based on this understanding, we have developed an innovative solution based on “psychological silencing”. This involves broadcasting a carefully designed noise signature (matched both to the existing background and to the disturbing sound) from a bespoke sound system installed at the “culprit” site. This destroys any character in the sound and, coupled with an explanation and demonstration to the complainant as to how the “pattern” has been removed, they no longer hear it. Et – voila! No more complaints.

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