ChatterBlocker
for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad

Frequently Asked Questions


How It Works

How does ChatterBlocker work?

Does ChatterBlocker use noise cancellation?

How does ChatterBlocker stop noise with more sound?

Will this completely block out unwanted conversations?


How It Differs from Other Solutions

How does ChatterBlocker differ from "White Noise" masking devices?

Why should I use ChatterBlocker instead of just listening to music?

How does the ChatterBlocker for iPhone differ from the Macintosh and Windows versions?


How to Use ChatterBlocker

How should I use ChatterBlocker?

Should I use ChatterBlocker with headphones or speakers?

Will ChatterBlocker bother my co-workers?

Can I use ChatterBlocker with noise cancelling headphones? Will I get any additional benefit?

Are there precautions I should take when listening with headphones?


Other Uses

Would ChatterBlocker help mask the sound of tinnitus (ringing of the ears)?

Does it help block out the sound of someone who clears their throat really loudly every few minutes?

I transcribe audio recordings — what can I do to block out my thoughtless co-workers?

Can ChatterBlocker help provide privacy (for example, in a medical clinic or hospital setting)?

What are some other uses of ChatterBlocker?


Sound Categories

What is the purpose of each category (Voices and Sound Effects)?

How can I use the chatter voices?

What are the other voice tracks?


Presets

How can I save custom presets?

How can I delete custom presets?


Miscellaneous / Support

What should I do if I have tech support questions?

What are the system requirements?

 


Questions & Answers

How It Works

How does ChatterBlocker work?

ChatterBlocker masks unwanted office chatter using a soothing blend of nature sounds and chatter voices, to increase concentration, reduce distractibility and minimize the stress response to office noise.

For more information, read our background papers:
"Coping with Speech Noise in the Modern Workplace" and
"Learning to Tune Out Distraction."

 

Does ChatterBlocker use noise cancellation?

No. Noise cancellation would not be effective over speakers, and noise cancelling headphones have limited effectiveness in silencing voice.

Good quality noise cancelling headphones are great for reducing low-frequency sounds, such as airplane engine rumble, but they are not as effective in the 2 to 8 kHz consonant range that conveys much of the speech intelligibility.

 

How does ChatterBlocker stop noise with more sound?

Our goal is not to stop noise by adding more noise. The goal is to render speech less intelligible, because intelligible speech tends to be the most distracting sound in the workplace. If we can understand the conversations around us, our minds tend to lock onto those conversations and we lose track of our own thoughts.

ChatterBlocker doesn’t “stop” noise — it reduces the intelligibility of nearby conversations to make them less distracting. This is done using auditory masking (related to the psychoacoustic phenomenon exploited by MP3 and related compression algorithms).

Intelligible speech is hidden behind similar, but less distracting sounds. The result isn’t silence but a relaxing murmur. The effect is similar to lying on a crowded beach, where faraway voices mingle with the sounds of the surf to lull you into a state of relaxation. This state allows you to calm the body and focus the mind.

 

Will this completely block out unwanted conversations?

Not necessarily (at least, when used at a safe and comfortable listening level). Some speech sounds are harder to mask than others, depending on factors such as how far away the person is, how loudly he or she is talking, the pitch of the voice, and the presence and placement of acoustically absorbent or obstructive materials.

Even when ChatterBlocker is unable to completely mask the unwanted speech, it can "blur" the sound, lowering the Speech Intelligibility Index (SII) and giving you something else to listen to so your attention doesn't get captured by irrelevant conversations.

 

How It Differs from Other Solutions

How does ChatterBlocker differ from "White Noise" masking devices?

Some offices deal with the problem of conversational distraction by installing "White Noise" sound masking systems, which typically involve speakers placed in the plenum above the ceiling. These devices help reduce the intelligibility of nearby speech; users often assume they are hearing the sound of the air conditioning system.

However, this is a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn't let users adjust the volume and content of the sound being played. "White noise" and "pink noise" can be annoying at certain levels and ineffective at others. ChatterBlocker lets users select one or more simultaneous masking sounds and adjust the volume to fit their own situation.

 

Why should I use ChatterBlocker instead of just listening to music?

Music can often be distracting in itself, to you as well as your co-workers. This is particularly true for music with lyrics.

ChatterBlocker was intentionally designed for blocking unwanted speech, while simultaneously minimizing distraction. Many of the sound files were recorded in binaural, which makes them especially effective at masking sounds coming from any direction.

In addition, ChatterBlocker lets you play multiple sound files at once — you can mix and match any combination of nature sounds and chatter voices to fit your preferences and your surroundings.

Finally, in a cubicle environment, music listening is often done over headphones, in order to avoid disturbing neighbors with your music choices. However, prolonged listening to music over headphones is not recommended, due to the possibility of hearing damage (see the section on Precautions below). Many of the ChatterBlocker presets can be played over speakers at a low to moderate volume level without disturbing cubicle neighbors.

 

How does the ChatterBlocker for iPhone differ from the Macintosh and Windows versions?

The iPhone version doesn't include the Music tracks, which customers sometimes found distracting. In order to reduce the download size, it also doesn't include the meditation tracks and the "Please Be Quiet" and "Shut It" tracks. The Mac and Windows versions also include a mechanism for adding additional tracks. The iOS version has a new interface designed exclusively for iPhone and iPod Touch. It also works fine on iPad.

 

How to Use ChatterBlocker

How should I use ChatterBlocker?

1. Set the volume to a level that seems comfortable and effective.

2. Experiment with different presets to find one you find pleasant and effective at masking the conversations around you.

3. To fine-tune ChatterBlocker to your situation, you can create new presets by adding additional or removing sounds, or by starting with the Build Your Own Track preset.

Note that ChatterBlocker does not limit you to playing one track at a time. You can select as many tracks as you want from either of the categories: Voices and Sound Effects.

 

Should I use ChatterBlocker with headphones or speakers?

Whichever you prefer.

For especially loud conversations, ChatterBlocker may be more effective over headphones. However, prolonged headphone listening can be uncomfortable and can cause hearing fatigue. Often, ChatterBlocker can be surprisingly effective over external speakers at low to moderate levels, without disturbing your neighbors. ChatterBlocker will be more effective with either headphones or external speakers than with the small, built-in iPhone speaker.

 

Will ChatterBlocker bother my co-workers?

Probably not.

ChatterBlocker works by “neutralizing” common environmental sounds, not by drowning them out. You can generally keep the volume quite low in environments such as offices. In noisier settings, such as crowded cafés, you may want to turn the volume higher. In either case, people around you will usually notice the speech sounds you’re blocking before they’ll notice the low, steady sound of ChatterBlocker. And if they're trying to concentrate, they may benefit from ChatterBlocker as well.

 

Can I use ChatterBlocker with noise cancelling headphones? Will I get any additional benefit?

ChatterBlocker can be used with any speakers or headphones, including noise cancelling headphones. There may be some additional benefit when using high-quality noise cancelling headphones, especially with low-pitched male voices. However, ChatterBlocker can effectively mask voice with or without the use of noise cancelling headphones.

 

Are there precautions I should take when listening with headphones?

Users should take care when listening to any audio content (not just ChatterBlocker) at excessive volume levels and/or for extended periods of time, and especially over headphones. Headphone listeners are more susceptible to hearing damage (such as hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing of the ears), for a number of reasons:

The goal of ChatterBlocker is to help blur unwanted speech, reduce the Speech Intelligibility Index (SII), and provide other sounds your brain can focus on instead of the speech content. Don't try to use ChatterBlocker to completely overpower or drown out the unwanted conversations. If you turn up the volume too loud, ChatterBlocker will become a source of stress and distraction in itself, which defeats the purpose. Keep the volume at a low, comfortable background level, limit the amount of time you spend each day listening on headphones, take frequent breaks and avoid the temptation to keep turning up the level. If you're wondering whether the volume might be too loud, take that as a warning — yes, it might.

Hearing damage can be thought of as a type of repetitive stress disorder, and like carpal tunnel syndrome, most people don't think about it until the damage is already done.

We recommend using ChatterBlocker over speakers when possible. If you must use headphones, for any type of audio content, be mindful to keep the volume at a safe level.

The information given here does not substitute for medical advice. Readers should consult a physician for a diagnosis of hearing damage. More information on this subject can be found in the article "Preventing Hearing Damage When Listening With Headphones," at http://www.headwize.com/articles/hearing_art.htm.

 

Other Uses

Would ChatterBlocker help mask the sound of tinnitus (ringing of the ears)?

Probably so. Different people have tinnitus in different frequency ranges; if yours is very high-pitched, ChatterBlocker may not totally mask the sound. However, it can still help distract your attention away from the ringing.

In general, it may be better to play some kind of low level background sound, to capture your acoustic attention, than to spend hours being stressed out about the ringing in your ears. Especially if you're troubled by tinnitus mostly at night, when the house is quiet and you're trying to sleep, it may be helpful to play low level nature sounds (such as ocean waves or babbling brooks). (Of course, if the computer's fan or disk drive noise is irritating in itself, you may want to find another solution.)

You may also obtain help from meditation or other mind/body techniques. Hating the ringing in your ears will not make the sound go away, but it can make you miserable. Meditation can help you accept the present moment instead of worrying about "what if this never goes away and I have to deal with it forever."

Needless to say, you should not try to turn up ChatterBlocker to an excessive volume level in an attempt to mask the tinnitus. Set it to a pleasant, comfortable background level. It's okay if the masking sound doesn't completely mask the ringing; the goal is to keep you from focusing your attention on the tinnitus.

 

I don't have a problem with people talking, but how does this deal with someone who clears their throat really loudly every few minutes?

ChatterBlocker can help make that less annoying as well.

 

I transcribe audio recordings — what can I do to block out my thoughtless co-workers?

ChatterBlocker might not help for this, because it would mask the recordings you're trying to transcribe as well as the sounds of your co-workers.

Noise-cancelling earphones may not help much except for low-frequency noise. For speech they mainly just cut out the low end. The main thing that might help would be any headphones with a cup that physically covers the ear, instead of just a little disk that sits on top of the ear ("around the ear" instead of "on the ear"); this will help physically block some of the sound, and may be more comfortable over the long term. There are also some headphones that plug into your ear like earplugs; these may help block out other sounds. Either way, it will be much easier to hear the recordings through headphones than through speakers. This may solve most of the problem.

Finally, you may want to read the white papers at http://chatterblocker.com/whitepapers/ , especially the one about learning to tune out distraction. Often the emotional response to distraction can actually be worse than the effects of the distraction itself (you can end up distracted by your mind chattering on about people who have no consideration for others, even long after they've stop talking), and meditation can be very helpful for this.

Of course, if you still can't hear what you're doing, that's another story, and your boss should definitely be concerned about the effect on productivity. If headphones don't do the trick (and they may indeed help a lot), you might propose the option of working from home or changing employment.

 

Can ChatterBlocker help provide privacy (for example, in a medical clinic or hospital setting)?

ChatterBlocker can be useful for this application so long as the volume is set to a reasonable level - not so low that it's ineffective, but not so high that people will talk louder to try to talk over it.

Careful placement of the speakers would be important - it's best if they're nearer (or aimed toward) the listeners, instead of the talkers, again so that the talkers will not simply talk louder. So, for example, the speakers might be placed in the waiting area, not right in the consultation area. Typically such speakers are placed in the plenum space above the ceiling so that people don't realize that "white noise" is being piped in, but if a pleasant nature sound is selected, this should not be essential. ChatterBlocker can be customized by selecting the desired preset; I would recommend a "Voice & Nature Sounds" preset, which adds a bit of distant vocal chatter ("babble" or murmur sound) to help mask the intelligibility of voice.

For this type of application, it might be best to run ChatterBlocker on a separate, dedicated device, because if someone uses the device for another purpose as well, people in the waiting area might hear any system sounds, YouTube soundtracks, etc., that were played. Another option would be to turn off system sounds in the control panel. A single device can generate audio for any number of rooms; ideally, whatever audio system you use should provide individual volume controls for different sets of speakers.

Since it's a software solution, ChatterBlocker can be quite cost effective compared to dedicated sound masking networks. In addition, we offer discounted site license prices on our order site.

 

What are some other uses of ChatterBlocker?

ChatterBlocker can be helpful for masking other types of sound, such as traffic noise, airplane noise, neighbor noise, unwanted music, etc.

ChatterBlocker may also be helpful in a variety of conditions involving noise sensitivity. Hyperacousis is an extreme sensitivity to sound, often associated with tinnitus (ringing in the ears). In one study, 43% of classical musicians reported symptoms of hyperacousis. People with hyperacousis are often tempted to plug their ears to minimize their sound exposure, but this can actually increase their sensitivity because it increase's the brain's amplification of sounds. Pleasant, low-level background sounds can help reduce the sound phobia. ChatterBlocker's Listening Meditation may be of use for this purpose as well.

Some people with Asperger Syndrome are also extremely sensitive to sounds and may have trouble blocking out distractions. We have had anecdotal reports that ChatterBlocker can be useful for these conditions.


Sound Categories

What is the purpose of each category (Voices and Sound Effects)?

Each of the three list boxes contain audio loops that continually repeat. The loops are of different lengths so that when combined with other loops, the overall sound will repeat only after a very long time period. The tracks line up differently against each other each time they repeat, so the composite sound is continually changing.

The Sound Effects mostly consist of nature sounds:

The Voices list box contains chatter voices:

How can I use the chatter voices?

The chatter voices are helpful at masking speech, especially louder conversations. These tracks consist of many people talking at once to create a background "walla" or "cafeteria noise." This sound is effective at covering up unwanted speech, but it is less distracting because you can not understand the individual words.

Select one or more tracks (low-pitched male voices, medium-pitched female voices, etc.) that seem to do the best job of masking the unwanted conversation. The chatter voices can also be used in conjunction with the Music and Sound Effects of your choice.

By themselves, the chatter tracks can be somewhat annoying. You may want to reserve them for masking louder conversations. You may also want to play them at a lower level than the nature sound tracks.

 

Presets

How can I save custom presets?

If you modify a preset and then switch to a new preset, ChatterBlocker will ask you if you want to save your custom preset. Just type a new preset name and tap "Save".

 

How can I delete custom presets?

Swipe your finger across the preset name on the home screen.

 

Miscellaneous / Support

What should I do if I have tech support questions?

  1. Go to the System Requirements page to make sure your device is compatible.
  2. Go to the Tech Support page to see if it addresses your question.
  3. Read the above Frequently Asked Questions to see if they address your question.
  4. If the previous steps don't answer your question, e-mail us.

 

What are the system requirements?

Go to the System Requirements page.

 

 

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