Do you ever feel uncomfortable in complete silence? That’s because we’re used to being surrounded by background noise or ambient sounds. From traffic to laughter to insects, there’s always some sort of white noise present. But what is background noise exactly, and how does it affect us?
Background noise is defined as any ambient sound that is distinct from the sounds you are actively focusing on. It can interfere with communication, causing misunderstandings and misinterpretations. While many use “white noise” or “pink noise” to describe background noise, this is technically incorrect. White or pink noise is used for acoustic tests, but not as background noise.
The amount of ambient noise present in an environment can impact our health and safety. In the US, OSHA has set noise exposure limits to keep workers safe from harmful noise levels. These include a maximum permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 85 decibels (dB) for an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA), and a maximum exposure of 115 dB for a 15-minute period.
Whether background noise is soothing or unbearable depends on its source and volume. Understanding and managing background noise is crucial for communication, work, and health.
What is background noise?
Background noise refers to the ambient sound or white noise present in any environment, distinct from the sounds you are actively focusing on.
How does background noise affect communication?
Background noise can interfere with communication, leading to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of messages.
Is all ambient sound white noise or pink noise?
No, not all ambient sound is white noise or pink noise. These types of sounds are used in acoustic tests, but not as background noise.
The Bottom Line
Background noise, or ambient sound, is a constant presence in our lives. It can impact our communication, work, and health. Understanding the sources and volume of background noise is essential for managing its effects and improving our lives.