Noise measurement

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In acoustics, noise measurement can be for the purpose of measuring environmental noise [1] or measuring noise in the workplace. Applications include monitoring of construction sites, aircraft noise, road traffic noise, entertainment venues and neighborhood noise. One of the definitions of noise covers all "unwanted sounds". [2] When sound levels reach a high enough intensity, the sound, whether it is wanted or unwanted, may be damaging to hearing. [3] Environmental noise monitoring is the measurement of noise in an outdoor environment caused by transport (e.g. motor vehicles, aircraft, and trains), industry (e.g. machines) and recreational activities (e.g. music). The laws and limits governing environmental noise monitoring differ from country to country.


At the very least, noise may be annoying or displeasing or may disrupt the activity or balance of human or animal life, increasing levels of aggression, hypertension and stress. In the extreme, excessive levels or periods of noise can have long-term negative health effects such as hearing loss, [4] tinnitus, [5] sleep disturbances, [6] a rise in blood pressure, [7] an increase in stress [8] and vasoconstriction, [9] and an increased incidence of coronary artery disease. [10] [11] In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfering with reproduction and navigation, [12] and contributing to permanent tinnitus and hearing loss. [13] [14]

Various interventions are available to combat environmental noise. Roadway noise can be reduced by the use of noise barriers, [15] limitation of vehicle speeds, [16] alteration of roadway surface texture, limitation of heavy vehicles, use of traffic controls that smooth vehicle flow to reduce braking and acceleration, and tire design. [17] Aircraft noise can be reduced by using quieter jet engines, [18] [19] [20] altering flight paths and considering the time of day to benefit residents near airports. [21] Industrial noise is addressed by redesign of industrial equipment, shock mounted assemblies and physical barriers in the workplace. [22]

Noise may be measured using a sound level meter at the source of the noise. [23] [24] [25] Alternatively, an organization or company may measure a person's exposure to environmental noise in a workplace via a noise dosimeter. [26] The measurements taken using either of these methods will be evaluated according to the standards below.

Audio Systems and Broadcasting

Noise measurement can also be part of a test procedure using white noise, or some other specialized form of test signal. In audio systems and broadcasting, specific methods are used to obtain subjectively valid results in order that different devices and signal paths may be compared regardless of the inconsistent spectral distribution and temporal properties of the noise that they generate. In particular, the ITU-R 468 noise weighting was devised specifically for this purpose and is widely used for professional audio and broadcast measurements.


There are a number of standards for noise measurement, each with a different goal or focus, including:

See also

Related Research Articles

Ambient noise level

In atmospheric sounding and noise pollution, ambient noise level is the background sound pressure level at a given location, normally specified as a reference level to study a new intrusive sound source.

Weighting filter

A weighting filter is used to emphasize or suppress some aspects of a phenomenon compared to others, for measurement or other purposes.

Noise An unwanted sound

Noise is unwanted sound considered unpleasant, loud or disruptive to hearing. From a physics standpoint, noise is indistinguishable from sound, as both are vibrations through a medium, such as air or water. The difference arises when the brain receives and perceives a sound.

A noise weighting is a specific amplitude-vs.-frequency characteristic that is designed to allow subjectively valid measurement of noise. It emphasises the parts of the spectrum that are most important.

Noise pollution Excessive, displeasing human, animal, or machine-created environmental noise

Noise pollution, also known as environmental noise or sound pollution, is the propagation of noise with ranging impacts on the activity of human or animal life, most of them harmful to a degree. The source of outdoor noise worldwide is mainly caused by machines, transport, and propagation systems. Poor urban planning may give rise to noise disintegration or pollution, side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can result in noise pollution in the residential areas. Some of the main sources of noise in residential areas include loud music, transportation, lawn care maintenance, construction, electrical generators, explosions, and people.

Environmental noise

Environmental noise is an accumulation of noise pollution that occurs outside. This noise can be caused by transport, industrial, and recreational activities.

Loudness Subjective perception of sound pressure

In acoustics, loudness is the subjective perception of sound pressure. More formally, it is defined as, "That attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which sounds can be ordered on a scale extending from quiet to loud." The relation of physical attributes of sound to perceived loudness consists of physical, physiological and psychological components. The study of apparent loudness is included in the topic of psychoacoustics and employs methods of psychophysics.

Occupational noise is the amount of acoustic energy received by an employee's auditory system when they are working in the industry. Occupational noise, or industrial noise, is often a term used in occupational safety and health, as sustained exposure can cause permanent hearing damage. Occupational noise is considered an occupational hazard traditionally linked to loud industries such as ship-building, mining, railroad work, welding, and construction, but can be present in any workplace where hazardous noise is present.

Equal-loudness contour Frequency charachteristics of hearing

An equal-loudness contour is a measure of sound pressure level, over the frequency spectrum, for which a listener perceives a constant loudness when presented with pure steady tones. The unit of measurement for loudness levels is the phon and is arrived at by reference to equal-loudness contours. By definition, two sine waves of differing frequencies are said to have equal-loudness level measured in phons if they are perceived as equally loud by the average young person without significant hearing impairment.

A weighting curve is a graph of a set of factors, that are used to 'weight' measured values of a variable according to their importance in relation to some outcome. An important example is frequency weighting in sound level measurement where a specific set of weighting curves known as A, B, C and D weighting as defined in IEC 61672 are used. Unweighted measurements of sound pressure do not correspond to perceived loudness because the human ear is less sensitive at low and high frequencies, with the effect more pronounced at lower sound levels. The four curves are applied to the measured sound level, for example by the use of a weighting filter in a sound level meter, to arrive at readings of loudness in Phons or in decibels (dB) above the threshold of hearing..

ITU-R 468 noise weighting

ITU-R 468 is a standard relating to noise measurement, widely used when measuring noise in audio systems. The standard, now referred to as ITU-R BS.468-4, defines a weighting filter curve, together with a quasi-peak rectifier having special characteristics as defined by specified tone-burst tests. It is currently maintained by the International Telecommunications Union who took it over from the CCIR.


The process of weighting involves emphasizing the contribution of particular aspects of a phenomenon over others to a final outcome or result; thereby highlighting those aspects in comparison to others in the analysis. That is, rather than each variable in the data set contributing equally to the final result, some of the data is adjusted to make a greater contribution than others. This is analogous to the practice of adding (extra) weight to one side of a pair of scales in order to favour either the buyer or seller.

Noise control

Noise control or noise mitigation is a set of strategies to reduce noise pollution or to reduce the impact of that noise, whether outdoors or indoors.

Sound level meter

A sound level meter is used for acoustic measurements. It is commonly a hand-held instrument with a microphone. The best type of microphone for sound level meters is the condenser microphone, which combines precision with stability and reliability. The diaphragm of the microphone responds to changes in air pressure caused by sound waves. That is why the instrument is sometimes referred to as a Sound Pressure Level (SPL) Meter. This movement of the diaphragm, i.e. the sound pressure deviation, is converted into an electrical signal. While describing sound in terms of sound pressure (Pascal) is possible, a logarithmic conversion is usually applied and the sound pressure level is stated instead, with 0 dB SPL equal to 20 micropascals.

Audio noise measurement is carried out to assess the quality of audio equipment, such as is used in recording studios, broadcast engineering, and in-home high fidelity.

Noise regulation includes statutes or guidelines relating to sound transmission established by national, state or provincial and municipal levels of government. After the watershed passage of the United States Noise Control Act of 1972, other local and state governments passed further regulations.

A-weighting Curves used to weigh sound pressure level

A-weighting is the most commonly used of a family of curves defined in the International standard IEC 61672:2003 and various national standards relating to the measurement of sound pressure level. A-weighting is applied to instrument-measured sound levels in an effort to account for the relative loudness perceived by the human ear, as the ear is less sensitive to low audio frequencies. It is employed by arithmetically adding a table of values, listed by octave or third-octave bands, to the measured sound pressure levels in dB. The resulting octave band measurements are usually added to provide a single A-weighted value describing the sound; the units are written as dB(A). Other weighting sets of values – B, C, D and now Z – are discussed below.

Noise dosimeter

A noise dosimeter or noise dosemeter is a specialized sound level meter intended specifically to measure the noise exposure of a person integrated over a period of time; usually to comply with Health and Safety regulations such as the Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) 29 CFR 1910.95 Occupational Noise Exposure Standard or EU Directive 2003/10/EC.

Occupational hearing loss

Occupational hearing loss (OHL) is hearing loss that occurs as a result of occupational hazards, such as excessive noise and ototoxic chemicals. Noise is a common workplace hazard, and recognized as the risk factor for noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, but it is not the only risk factor that can result in a work-related hearing loss. Also, noise-induced hearing loss can result from exposures that are not restricted to the occupational setting.


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