Last edited 09 Sep 2016

Sound v noise

The term ‘sound’ refers to a form of energy that is transmitted by pressure variations or vibrations that travel through the air or other mediums and that can be ‘heard’ by the ear or other devices.

Sound is generally characterised by continuous and regular vibrations, as opposed to noise which is characterised by more irregular fluctuations.

In subjective terms, noise might be considered to be an unpleasant sound that causes disturbance.

The building regulations approved document E, Resistance to the passage of sound describes ‘noise’ as ‘an unwanted sound’.

Noise nuisance is excessive noise or disturbance that may have a negative effect on health or the quality of life.

The government defines three levels of noise:

  • No observed effect level – the level of noise exposure where there is no effect on health or the quality of life.
  • Lowest observed effect level – adverse effects on health and the quality of life can be detected.
  • Significant observed adverse effect level – the level of noise exposure where there can be significant effects on health and quality of life.

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