AskDefine | Define loudness

Dictionary Definition



1 the magnitude of sound (usually in a specified direction); "the kids played their music at full volume" [syn: volume, intensity] [ant: softness]

User Contributed Dictionary



loud + -ness


  1. the perceptual strength or amplitude of sound pressure, measured in sones or phons
  2. the physical strength of the sound pressure level, measured in decibels


perceptual strength or amplitude of sound pressure

Extensive Definition

Loudness is the quality of a sound that is the primary psychological correlate of physical strength (amplitude).
Loudness, a subjective measure, is often confused with objective measures of sound pressure such as decibels or intensity. Filters such as A-weighting attempt to adjust sound measurements to correspond to loudness as perceived by the average human. However, true perceived loudness varies from person to person and cannot be measured this way. It is also an known fact that loudness is actually a boolean attribute, therefore can not be adjusted by an analog control.
Loudness is also affected by parameters other than sound pressure, including: frequency (see bandwidth), and duration (see temporal integration).


The perception of loudness is related to both the intensity and duration of a sound. It appears that the human auditory system integrates intensity over a 600-1000 ms window. For example, a sound of constant intensity will be perceived to grow in loudness as 20, 50, 100, 200 ms samples are played up to a maximum of ~1000 ms where the perception of loudness will stabilize. For long duration sounds then, the moment by moment perception of loudness will be based on the integration (or averaging) of the last 600-1000 ms.
For long duration sounds loudness is often approximated by a power function with an exponent of 0.6 when plotted vs. sound pressure or 0.3 when plotted vs. sound intensity (Stevens' power law). More precise measures have been subsequently made that show that loudness grows more rapidly (with a higher exponent) at low and high levels and less rapidly (with a lower exponent) at moderate levels. Units used to measure loudness:
  • Sone (loudness N)
  • Phon (loudness level L)

Loudness and hearing loss

When sensorineural hearing loss (damage to the cochlea) is present, the perception of loudness is altered. Sounds at low levels (often perceived by those without hearing loss as relatively quiet) are no longer audible to the hearing impaired, but interestingly, sounds at high levels often are perceived as having the same loudness as they would for an unimpaired listener. This phenomenon can be explained by two theories: Loudness grows more rapidly for these listeners than normal listeners with changes in level. This theory is called "loudness recruitment" and has been accepted as the classical explanation. More recently, it has been proposed that some listeners with sensorineural hearing loss may in fact exhibit a normal rate of loudness growth, but instead have an elevated loudness at their threshold. That is, the softest sound that is audible to these listeners is louder than the softest sound audible to normal listeners. This theory is called "Softness Imperception."

Other uses of the word loudness

The "loudness" control on a consumer stereo alters the frequency response curve, attenuating midrange frequencies to correspond roughly with the changing frequency response characteristics of human hearing at low sound pressure levels. The loudness control is intended to make the recorded music sound more natural when played softly.


loudness in German: Lautheit
loudness in Estonian: Helivaljus
loudness in Spanish: Volumen (sonido)
loudness in French: Correcteur physiologique
loudness in Hungarian: Hangosság
loudness in Japanese: 音の大きさ
loudness in Polish: Głośność
loudness in Russian: Громкость звука
loudness in Simple English: Loudness
loudness in Finnish: Äänekkyys
loudness in Ukrainian: Гучність звуку

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

amplitude, arsenic green, auditory effect, auditory phenomenon, blatancy, brazenness, clashing colors, coarseness, color clash, colorfulness, crassness, crudeness, crudity, dash, dazzle, dazzlingness, earthiness, extravagance, extravaganza, extravagation, flagrancy, flamboyance, flashiness, gaiety, garishness, gaudery, gaudiness, glare, glitter, gorgeousness, grossness, jaundiced yellow, jauntiness, jazziness, luridness, meretriciousness, noise, obscenity, obtrusiveness, panache, phone, rawness, ribaldry, roughness, rudeness, screaming color, sensationalism, shamelessness, shocking pink, showiness, sonance, sound, sound intensity level, sound propagation, sound wave, speech sound, sportiness, tawdriness, ultrasound, vulgarness
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