# acoustic quantities

## Acoustic quantities, part 4: Quantities in noise regulations

In this series so far, we have looked at how we use decibels to put numbers on the loudness of sounds (Part 1), how we can compensate for humans hearing some sound frequencies better than others (Part 2), and how we can determine decibel numbers for sounds that vary significantly in time (Part 3). We can consider what we have looked at so far as being building blocks. With these blocks, we can construct the acoustic quantities used in noise regulations throughout the world.

In this fourth and final part, we will look more closely at these more advanced quantities. In Norway, for example, noise regulations use such quantities to define concepts such as red and yellow noise zones. (I will use Norwegian noise regulations as an example throughout this post; these are the ones that I have particular experience with. However, noise regulations in many other countries will be similar.) …

## Acoustic quantities, part 3: Time variation

In this series, we first looked at what sound pressure levels and decibels are. Then, we looked at how we can calculate sound pressure levels in a way that takes human hearing into account. So far, though, we have only considered steady and unchanging sounds. These come from e.g. ventilation systems or machines that run steadily. But what about sounds that change in time, e.g. sounds from passing cars or aircraft, or from explosions and other bangs? Fortunately, acoustic quantities and techniques exist that allow us to describe and compare these sounds as well. The most important are Slow- and Fast-weighting, sound exposure level, and equivalent level. These are the topics of this part of the series. …

## Acoustic quantities, part 2: Frequency weighting

In the previous part of this series, we looked at what decibels are. To put it simply, we can measure a sound, find a representative sound pressure for it, put this into a logarithmic formula, and voilà – we have a sound pressure level in decibels. However,  humans cannot hear every sound equally well. The basic calculation of sound pressure level does not take this into account. This means that there are sounds we can hear hardly or not at all, that have the same physical sound pressure level as sounds that we hear well. Therefore, a number of techniques, such as A-weighting and C-weighting, have been developed to let us calculate sound pressure levels that fit our hearing better.

In this part, we will discuss how sound consists of different frequencies, how we do not hear these frequencies equally well, and how we can take this into account when calculating sound pressure levels. …

## Acoustic quantities, part 1: What are decibels?

Sound is, simply put, weak but rapid fluctuations in air pressure: The air becomes a tiny bit denser, a tiny bit thinner, denser, thinner, and so forth. These fluctuations start at sound sources, for example loudspeakers, and spread out like waves. At the sound wave’s peak, the air is at its densest, while at the wave’s trough, the air is at its thinnest.

When these sound waves hit our ears, our auditory system translates them into something that we can perceive consciously — and thus, we hear that the sound is there. Still, it is difficult to describe, compare, and process these subjective experiences. For example, would you and I agree that this sound is stronger than that sound? And if so, how much stronger is it?

To make sound into something that we can measure, describe, compare, and handle, many different acoustic quantities have been introduced. We use these to make sound into something that we can discuss in a more concrete and objective manner. These quantities affect us all, not least because noise regulations use them to describe how much sound e.g. airports, roads, and concerts are allowed to make. In this article series, we will therefore go through the most important acoustic quantities. In this first part, we begin by discussing what decibels are. This is a fundamental quantity used everywhere where sound is described quantitatively. …