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Definition of noise

This content applies to England & Wales

Definitions and common sources of noise.

Noise can take many forms: for example, rowdy parties, barking dogs, disruptive neighbours and persistent car alarms. The effect on those exposed to the noise can range from minor irritation, to disputes with neighbours, to significant ill health.

A straightforward definition of noise is 'sound which is undesired by the recipient'.[1] This definition requires three conditions. There must be:

  • a source of sound
  • a transmission path (ie the route that the noise takes)
  • a receiver who has, or would have, an adverse reaction to the sound.

The last condition can cause disagreement, as it is a subjective assessment. What may be noise (and a cause of irritation) to one person may simply be sound (and a source of pleasure) to another.

[1] Wilson Committee on the Problem of Noise 1963.


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