Noise Vocabulary

ABSORPTION. A property of materials that allows a reduction in the amount of sound energy reflected. The introduction of an absorbent into the surfaces of a room will reduce the sound pressure level in that room by not reflecting all of the sound energy striking the room’s surfaces. The effect of absorption merely reduces the resultant sound level in the room produced by energy that has already entered the room.

ABSORPTION COEFFICIENT. A measure of the sound-absorbing ability of a surface. It is defined as the fraction of incident sound energy absorbed or otherwise not reflected by a surface. Unless otherwise specified, a diffuse sound field is assumed. The values at the sound-absorption coefficient usually range from about 0.01 for marble slate to almost 1.0 for long absorbing wedges often used in anechoic rooms.

ACOUSTICS. (1) The science of sound, including the generation, transmission, and effects of sound waves, both audible and inaudible. (2) The physical qualities of a room or other enclosure (such as size, shape, amount of noise) that determine the audibility and perception of speech and music within the room.

ACOUSTIC TRAUMA. Damage to the hearing mechanism caused by a sudden burst of intense noise, or by a blast. The term usually implies a single traumatic event.

AIRBORNE SOUND. Sound that reaches the point of interest by propagation through air.

AMBIENT NOISE. The total of all noise in the environment, other than the noise from the source of interest. This term is used interchangeably with background noise.

ANECHOIC ROOM. A room in which the boundaries absorb nearly all the incident sound, thereby, effectively creating free field conditions.

ANSI. The American National Standards Institute.

ARTICULATION INDEX (AI). A numerically calculated measure of the intelligibility of transmitted or processed speech. It takes into account the limitations of the transmission path and the background noise. The articulation index can range in magnitude between 0 and 1.0 . If the AI is less than 0.1, speech intelligibility is generally low. If it is above 0.6, speech intelligibility is generally high.

ATTENUATION. The reduction of sound intensity by various means (e.g., air, humidity, porous materials…).

(AUDIO-FREQUENCY RANGE). The frequency range 16 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz). Note.- This is conventionally taken to be the normal frequency range of human hearing.

AUDIO FREQUENCY. The frequency of oscillation of an audible sound wave. Any frequency between 20 and 20,000 Hz.

AUDIOGRAM. A graph showing individual hearing acuity as a function of frequency.

AUDIOMETER. An instrument for measuring individual hearing acuity.

AUDIOMETRY. The measurement of hearing.

A-WEIGHTED SOUND LEVEL. A measure of sound pressure level designed to reflect the acuity of the human ear, which does not respond equally to all frequencies. The ear is less efficient at low and high frequencies than at medium or speech-range frequencies. Therefore, to describe a sound containing a wide range of frequencies in a manner representative of the ear’s response, it is necessary to reduce the effects of the low and high frequencies with respect to the medium frequencies. The resultant sound level is said to be A-weighted, and the units are dBA. The A-weighted sound level is also called the noise level. Sound level meters have an A-weighting network for measuring A-weighted sound level.

BACKGROUND NOISE. The total of all noise in a system or situation, independent of the presence of the desired signal. In acoustical measurements, strictly speaking, the term “background noise” means electrical noise in the measurement system. However, in popular usage the term “background noise” is often used to mean the noise in the environment, other than the noise from the source of interest.

BAND. Any segment of the frequency spectrum.

BAND PASS FILTER. A wave filter that has a single transmission band extending from a lower cutoff frequency greater than zero to a finite upper cutoff frequency.

BROADBAND NOISE. Noise with components over a wide range of frequencies.

CALIBRATOR (ACOUSTICAL). A device which produces a known sound pressure on the microphone of a sound level measurement system, and is used to adjust the system to Standard specifications.

COCHLEA. A spirally coiled organ located within the inner ear which contains the receptor organs essential to hearing.

CONTINUOUS NOISE. On-going noise whose intensity remains at a measurable level (which may vary) without interruption over an indefinite period or a specified period of time.

CUTOFF FREQUENCIES. The frequencies that mark the ends of a band, or the points at Which the characteristics of a filter change from pass to no-pass.

CYCLE. The complete sequence of values of a periodic quantity that occurs during one period.

CYCLES PER SECOND. A measure of frequency numerically equivalent to hertz.

CYLINDRICAL WAVE. A wave in which the surfaces of constant phase are coaxial cylinders. A line of closely-spaced sound sources radiating into an open space produces a free sound field of cylindrical waves.

DAMPING. The dissipation of energy with time or distance. The term is generally applied to the attenuation of sound in a structure owing to the internal sound-dissipative properties of the structure or to the addition of sound-dissipative materials.

dBA. Unit of sound level. The weighted sound pressure level by the use of the A metering characteristic and weighting specified in ANSI Specifications for Sound Level Metere, S1.4-1983. dBA is used as a measure of human response to sound.

DEAFNESS. 100 percent impairment of hearing associated with an organic condition. This is defined for medical and cognate purposes as the hearing threshold level for speech or the average hearing threshold level for pure tones of 500, 1000 and 2000 Hz in excess of 92 dB.

DECIBEL. A unit of sound pressure level, abbreviated dB.

DIFFRACTION. A modification which soundwaves undergo in passing by the edges of solid bodies.

DIRECTIVITY INDEX. In a given direction froma sound source, the difference in decibels between (a) the sound pressure level produced by the source in that direction, and (b) the space-average sound pressure level of that source, measured at the same distance.

DOPPLER EFFECT (DOPPLER SHIFT). The apparent upward shift in frequency of a sound as a noise source approaches the listener or the apparent downward shift when the noise source recedes. The classic example is the change in pitch of a railroad whistle as the locomotive approaches and passes by.

DOSIMETER. A device worn by a worker for determining the worker’s accumulated noise exposure with regard to level and time according to a pre-determined integration formula.

ECHO. A wave that has been reflected or otherwise returned with sufficient magnitude and delay, so as to be detected as a wave distinct from that directly transmitted.

ENVIRONMENTAL NOISE. The intensity, duration, and character of sounds from all sources.

EQUIVALENT A-WEIGHTED SOUND LEVEL (Leq). The constant sound level that, in a given time period, would convey the same sound energy as the actual time-varying A-weighted sound level.

FAR FIELD. Describes a sound source region in free space where the sound pressure level obeys the inverse-square law (the sound pressure level decreases 6 dB with each doubling of distance from the source). Also, in this region the sound particle velocity is in phase with the sound pressure. Closer to the source where these two conditions do not hold constitutes the “near field” region.

FILTER. A device for separating components of a signal on the basis of their frequency. It allows components in one or more frequency bands to pass relatively unattenuated, and it attenuates components in other frequency bands.

FREE SOUND FIELD (FREE FIELD). A sound field in which the effects of obstacles or boundaries on sound propagated in that field are negligible.

FREQUENCY. The number of times per second that the sine wave of sound repeats itself, or that the sine wave of a vibrating object repeats itself. Now expressed in hertz (Hz), formerly in cycles per second (cps).

HAIR CELL. Sensory cells in the cochlea which transform the mechanical energy of sound into nerve impulses.

HARMONIC. A sinusoidal (pure-tone) component whose frequency is a whole-number multiple of the fundamental frequency of the wave. If a component has a frequency twice that of the fundamental it is called the second harmonic, etc…

HEARING. The subjective human response to sound.

HEARING LEVEL. A measured threshold of hearing at a specified frequency, expressed in decibels relative to a specified standard of normal hearing. The deviation in decibels of an individual’s threshold from the zero reference of the audiometer.

HEARING LOSS. A term denoting an impairment of auditory acuity. The amount of hearing impairment, in decibels, measured as a set of hearing threshold levels at specified frequencies. Types of hearing loss are: 1. Conductive: A loss originating in the conductive mechanism of the ear; 2. Sensor-neural: A loss originating in the cochlea or the fibers of the auditory nerve; 3. Noise induced: A sensor-neural loss attributed to the effects of noise.

HEARING THRESHOLD LEVEL (HTL). Amount (in decibels) by which an individual’s threshold of audibility differs from a standard audiometric threshold.

HERTZ (Hz). Unit of measurement of frequency, numerically equal to cycles per second

IMPACT INSULATION CLASS (IC). A single-figure rating that compares the impact sound insulating capabilities of floor-ceiling assemblies to a reference contour.

IMPACT SOUND. The sound produced by the collision of two solid objects. Typical sources are footsteps, dropped objects, etc., on an interior surface (wall, floor, or ceiling) of a building.