We hear it every day and everywhere but we know so little about it. Any guesses what this is? The answer is noise.

“…A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization.”

— once described by Ambrose Bierce, a famous American writer of the 19th century.

Obviously, he knew something about it, since today it’s present in almost all aspects of our lives. And the noise continues to grow both in the amounts and levels. We hear it every day in the streets, in the workplace and in our homes.

So let’s dive straight into understanding our constant companion.

What is noise?

Noise has many definitions. But all of them boil down to the fact that it’s an unwanted sound. Sadly, no one wants to hear it because it’s unpleasant and annoying.

But the truth is that it’s a subjective matter. The sounds you find annoying may turn out to be pleasant for your friend! And vise versa.

Actually, the best tellers of what we perceive as a noise are our ears. They recognize the unwanted sounds and annoying tones which are unpleasant and disruptive to our hearing. Some of these sounds appear all of a sudden while others are just always there.

What are the types of noise?

At Krisp we try to train that little beast called noise and we spend most of our time listening to all possible types of it. And we’ve separated some of the most common types you’ve certainly heard:

  • Continuous — we learn to live without noticing this one

Continuous noise is constant. It’s produced continuously and keeps running without interruption. An example of this would be heating and ventilation systems.

  • Intermittent sounds — we might or might not notice this one

Intermittent sounds is a mix of quiet and noisy periods. In this case the levels increase and decrease rapidly. Examples of intermittent sounds might be a train passing by, factory equipment that operates in cycles or airplane flying overhead.

  • Impulsive sounds — we will definitely notice this one

This type is a short burst of loud noise. This sudden bursts can startle you by its fast and surprising nature. Impulsive sounds are commonly created by explosions or construction equipment such as pile drivers.

person dealing with noise

Often, it’s the duration and level  that affects how we perceive it sounds. The most annoying ones are usually long-lasting and of high level. Although, we learn to live without noticing this, they are the most damaging to our hearing.

On one side, intermittent sounds are slightly less damaging to our hearing than continuous sounds. Why? Because our ears have an ability to restore during the quiet periods. However, because of their suddenness and unpredictability, these sounds are more annoying, and you certainly you can not help but notice them.

What noises do we hear most often?

Before we go further, one question: Do you know what do an alarm clock and an office have in common?

The answer is the noise level! Your alarm has the same range of loudness as if you’re in a noisy office.

Now let’s have a look at the most common sounds that we hear on a daily basis:

levels of noise

Effects of Background Noise

The problem is not only that it’s unwanted but also that it can cause negative effects on our productivity and well-being. Besides simply being annoying, its exposure can be stressful, cause distraction and loss of productivity.

  • Causes loss of productivity and performance.
  • Causes annoyance and stress.
  • Damages hearing, if of sufficient level.
  • Interferes with communication, and may be the reason for misunderstanding.

The other side of noise

But is noise always an unwanted sound? Not always, and not for all people.

It became so common today that many people can’t work in a quiet space and just have to listen to some sort of background noise to be able to work! These people have developed a special “love” for it and “fight” it with another noise.

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Here’s a 1-hour white noise to help you focus. Give it try!

White noise is often used for the purpose of masking background noise. It helps you to drown out sounds which might otherwise disturb you. Some people like hearing it when working or falling asleep as it helps them to focus or relax. If you’re this person, then you might want to check out white noise apps!

The same principle of “fighting” noise with noise is used in noise cancellation headphones, which silence sound waves by simultaneously generating waves of the exact opposite orientation. That’s why you don’t hear the background noise while wearing headphones.

But be careful, people near you still can hear it! 🙂

person in headphones

As you see, noise has many different sides and is a subject of perception. Some people find it unpleasant and annoying, while others learn to live without noticing it. In either case, it affects all of us in one or another way. And as people say: scientia potentia est (or knowledge is power).

If you know any interesting facts about it, tell us in the comments below!