Noise is a disagreeable or distracting sound. This is all in the eye of the beholder as one person's lively music or environment may be another person's noise. The following are illustrative examples of noise.
Background NoisePeople have the ability to filter out unimportant noises to focus on what they need to hear in a sea of sound. This noise that you are able to sideline and not focus on is known as background noise.
Noise PollutionNoise pollution is noise that creates significant negative value. For example, a motorcyclist who intentionally increases the sound of their engine and then drives around a dense urban environment at 3 AM potentially disturbing the sleep of thousands of people.
Occupational NoiseOccupational noise is noise that you are regularly exposed to in your work such that it may become a health and safety issue if not managed as a risk. For example, a carpenter who is regularly exposed to loud tools such as a circular saw or hammer.
Noise LevelsNoise levels can be objectively measured, often in units known as decibels.
Barely Audible Sound
Quiet Countryside in Summer
Household Appliances (e.g. washing machine)
Nightclubs / Concerts
Shouting in Ear
Jet Taking Off
Loudest Possible Sound
White NoiseWhite noise is sound that contains many frequencies with similar intensities. This is an analogy to white light that contains all frequencies of visible light. White noise is commonly used to mask other noises.
Noise in MusicVarious genres of music are known for their expressive use of noise. This includes sounds that are highly random, improvisational, indeterminate and cacophonous. For example, the expressive use of distortion, feedback and static.
Noise ToleranceNoise is a common source of social conflict as work, hobbies and leisure can create noise that is unpopular with neighbors. Some individuals have low tolerance for noise and dislike moderately noisy environments such as lively restaurants that others may find stimulating and appealing. In some cases, individuals have lobbied to end noises that are viewed as traditional, cultural or a right. For example, the right of children to play whereby it is unlikely they would do so quietly.
The HumThe Hum is a term for unidentified low level noises associated with specific environments and/or conditions. These would naturally become background noises but cause some interest or annoyance by those who pursue silence.
Unexplained SoundsUnexplained sounds are commonplace. For example, large scale unexplained sounds in oceans have been documented by researchers that may be caused by things like volcanic activity, icequakes and icebergs.
Fear of SilenceJust as people may feel uncomfortable in loud, stimulating environments, people tend to feel uncomfortable in silence. Silence feels uncertain and may trigger an instinctive fear response. Silence also symbolizes potentially unpleasant things such as being alone, nothingness, the afterlife (e.g. rest in peace) and disagreement (e.g. silent treatment). It also makes people alert to physical danger -- possibly rooted in the quiet approach of predators in the wild. Humans have a tendency to fill all environments with sounds and light and this may be rooted in fears of the silence and the dark.
SoundscapesA soundscape is a characteristic set of background noises associated with a time and place. For example, the sounds of an alpine meadow in Spring. These are viewed as having aesthetic qualities such that they are part of the natural and cultural heritage of the world. In this context, out of place noises could be viewed as damaging to heritage.
This is the complete list of articles we have written about human perception.
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References Outdoor Noise and the Metropolitan Environment, M.C. Branch et al., Department of City Planning, City of Los Angeles, 1970.
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