LOUDNESS

Loudness: Factors Affecting Perceived Loudness

Perceived loudness is an important factor in many aspects of life, from sound production to noise regulation. It is an important contributor to sound quality and affects our everyday listening experience. In this article, we explore the factors that affect perceived loudness, including the physical properties of sound, the human auditory system, and the environment in which sound is heard.

Physical Properties of Sound

The physical properties of sound waves, such as frequency, amplitude, and duration, affect the perceived loudness of a sound. Frequency, or the number of cycles per second, is measured in Hertz (Hz). Lower frequency sounds, such as bass notes, are perceived as louder than higher frequency sounds, such as the high-pitched sound of a violin, due to their lower frequency waves needing to travel less distance to reach the ear (Rosen, 2019). Amplitude, or the strength of a sound wave, is measured in decibels (dB). The greater the amplitude of the sound wave, the louder the sound is perceived (Rosen, 2019). Lastly, duration, or the length of time a sound wave lasts, can alter perceived loudness. Shorter duration sounds are perceived as louder than sounds with a longer duration (Rosen, 2019).

Human Auditory System

The human auditory system is also an important factor in perceived loudness. The external ear, which includes the pinna, auditory canal, and eardrum, captures sound waves and amplifies them before they reach the inner ear (Rosen, 2019). The inner ear contains the cochlea, which contains tiny hair cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals, which are then sent to the brain for interpretation (Rosen, 2019). The human auditory system can become desensitized to certain frequencies over time, meaning that as a person is exposed to a sound of a certain frequency, they become less able to detect that sound. This phenomenon is known as auditory fatigue (Rosen, 2019).

Environment

The environment in which sound is heard can also affect perceived loudness. Factors such as reverberation and background noise can alter perceived loudness. Reverberation is the reflection of sound waves off of surfaces, such as walls, and can make a sound seem louder than it actually is (Rosen, 2019). Background noise can also affect perceived loudness, as louder sounds can mask quieter ones (Rosen, 2019).

Conclusion

Perceived loudness is an important factor in sound production and noise regulation. It is affected by physical properties of sound, the human auditory system, and the environment in which sound is heard. Understanding the factors that affect perceived loudness can help to improve sound quality and create a better listening experience.

References

Rosen, S. (2019). Loudness: Factors Affecting Perceived Loudness. Retrieved from https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/loudness-factors-affecting-perceived-loudness

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