top of page
  • Writer's pictureJulian Rhodes

High, Middle and Low-Frequency Noise | Types of Sounds

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Sound is all around us—we hear it every day. But what causes these sounds and how are they created? It all has to do with frequency.


The sound spectrum is composed of a wide variety of frequencies. High-frequency noises can be sharp or shrill, like the whine of a mosquito, while low-frequency sounds tend to be deep and rumbling, like the thunder of an earthquake. While some sounds exist on the entire spectrum, others fall into three basic categories: high-frequency noise, middle-frequency noise, and low-frequency noise.


In this article, we'll break down exactly what each type of frequency has to offer, as well as some examples of everyday sounds that fall into each category. From the highest treble notes to the deepest bass tones, you'll come away with a better understanding of what goes into creating various soundscapes in everyday life.


What Are High, Middle and Low-Frequency Sounds?




High-frequency sounds have a frequency that is higher than the frequency of low-frequency sounds. High-frequency sounds are typically heard as ringing or buzzing. They include sounds like bells, whistles, and vacuum cleaners. Middle-frequency sounds have a frequency that is in the middle of the range of low-frequency sounds and high-frequency sounds. They include sounds like voices, clapping, and thunder. Low-frequency sounds have a frequency that is lower than the frequency of high-frequency sounds. Low-frequency sounds are typically heard as rumbles or vibrations. They include sounds like cars, waves, and rain.


When it comes to analyzing sound, frequency is an important factor to consider. Frequency refers to the number of sound waves produced in a certain unit of time, usually per second. Sounds vary according to the frequencies they carry. In this article, we'll break down three general frequency categories of noise - high, middle and low-frequency noise - to explore their unique properties and how they impact the sounds we hear.


We'll also examine how higher or lower frequencies can influence the intensity of sound waves, as well as how sound levels are measured in decibels (dB). Finally, we'll look at several examples of noise from each frequency category so that you can better understand the differences between them. So whether you're a budding musician or an aspiring audio engineer, read on for a deep dive into the world of high-, middle- and low-frequency sounds.


Understanding Frequency and Types of Sounds


If you've ever wondered what distinguishes high, middle, and low-frequency sounds, you're not alone. Different types of sounds have different frequencies, and understanding these frequencies is key to understanding the nature of sound.


To start with, let's explore the concept of frequency. Frequency refers to how many times something vibrates per second. In the context of sound, frequency refers to how many sound waves travel through the air per second. A high-frequency sound wave has a lot of waves per second, while a low-frequency sound wave has fewer waves per second.


Now, let's dive into the different types of sounds based on their frequency:


1. High-Frequency Noise




High-frequency noise is usually defined as noise with a frequency between 2,000 and 20,000 Hz. Some common examples of high-frequency noise include:


The sound of a bird chirping

The sound of a whistle

The sound of a musical instrument like a flute


High-frequency noise can be harmful to our ears if we are exposed to it regularly and for extended periods and can cause hearing loss.


To protect your hearing from high-frequency noise, consider using noise-cancelling headphones (Amazon link)


In noisy environments, a pair of comfortable earplugs (Amazon link) can be an effective solution.


2. Middle-Frequency Noise




Middle-frequency noise has a frequency between 250 and 2000 Hz. Some common examples of middle-frequency noise include:


The sound of traffic on a busy road

The sound of a vacuum cleaner

The sound of a crowd talking


Middle-frequency noise can also be harmful to our ears, especially if we are exposed to it for long periods.


For reducing middle-frequency noise during your daily commute or work, consider investing in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones(Amazon link).


To create a more peaceful sleep environment and mask middle-frequency noise disturbances, you might find a white noise machine(Amazon link) beneficial."


3. Low-Frequency Noise



Low-frequency noise is defined as noise with a frequency below 250 Hz. Some common examples of low-frequency noise include:


The sound of a bass guitar

The sound of thunder

The sound of an earthquake


Low-frequency noise can often be felt more than heard, and it can be difficult to block out.


For minimizing the impact of low-frequency noise, consider using acoustic foam panels (Amazon link) or soundproof curtains (Amazon link).


To create a quieter sleeping environment and block out low-frequency noise, you may want to invest in heavy curtains (Amazon link) or soundproof blankets (Amazon link).


💡 key Takeaway: Understanding sound frequencies is key to understanding the nature of sound. High-frequency noise has a frequency above 2,000 Hz, middle-frequency noise has a frequency between 250 and 2,000 Hz, and low-frequency noise has a frequency below 250 Hz.


High-Frequency Noise: Characteristics and Examples




High-frequency noise is characterized by sound waves with frequencies ranging from 2000 to 20,000 Hz, and it is usually associated with sharp, piercing sounds. This type of noise is commonly found in many environments, such as construction sites, industrial facilities, and airports. It can also be produced by equipment, such as power tools and speakers.


Some of the main characteristics of high-frequency noise include:


High-pitched: High-frequency noise has a high pitch, which can often sound shrill or squeaky.


Short wavelength: Because high-frequency sound waves have a shorter wavelength than low-frequency waves, they can travel through the air with less energy.


Directionality: High-frequency noise tends to be more directional than low-frequency noise, meaning that it can easily be pinpointed to a specific source.


Examples of high-frequency noise include:


Whistles, screeches, and alarms

High-pitched beeps and chirps from electronic devices

Screaming children or animals

Car alarms

Industrial equipment, such as drills or saws


While exposure to high-frequency noise may not cause hearing loss as quickly as exposure to loud, low-frequency noise, it can still have harmful effects on hearing over time. According to some studies, prolonged exposure to high-frequency noise can cause high-frequency hearing loss, which can make it difficult to hear sounds such as birds singing or high-pitched musical instruments.


To reduce noise pollution in your home, consider using noise-cancelling curtains (Amazon link) or installing soundproofing materials (Amazon link).


💡 key Takeaway: High-frequency noise is characterized by sound waves with frequencies ranging from 2000 to 20,000 Hz, and it is usually associated with sharp, piercing sounds. Exposure to high-frequency noise can cause high-frequency hearing loss which can make it difficult to hear certain sounds, such as birds singing or high-pitched musical instruments.


The Effects of Middle-Frequency Noise on Human Health


Middle-frequency noise is all around us, but it often goes unnoticed. Unlike high-frequency noise, such as piercing alarm sounds or the screech of a train, middle-frequency noise is more subtle, but can still have a negative impact on our health. Here are some ways that middle-frequency noise affects our bodies:


1. Hearing Damage


Sustained exposure to middle-frequency noise can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. While it may not be noticeable at first, over time, this type of hearing loss can worsen, leading to permanent hearing damage.


2. Increased Stress Levels


Middle-frequency noise has been found to increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which can contribute to hypertension, heart disease, and other health issues. Even low levels of noise can lead to these effects over time.


3. Sleep Disruptions


Middle-frequency noise can interfere with our ability to get a good night's sleep, which is essential for our physical and mental well-being. Even if we don't wake up fully, our sleep can be disrupted by sudden noises or a sustained level of background noise.


4. Decreased Concentration


Middle-frequency noise can also affect our ability to concentrate and focus. This is particularly true for tasks that require sustained attention, where even low levels of noise can cause distractions and interruptions.


For portable noise pollution control, noise-cancelling headphones (Amazon link) can be a valuable tool


💡 key Takeaway: Middle-frequency noise may not be as obvious as high-frequency noise, but it can still have negative effects on our health, including hearing damage, increased stress levels, disrupted sleep, and decreased concentration. It's important to be aware of this type of noise and take steps to mitigate its effects.


Low-Frequency Noise: Definition and Examples




Low-frequency noise, also known as infra-sound, is a type of noise that operates at frequencies below the range of human hearing. It has a frequency of less than 20 Hz and is often produced by machinery, wind turbines, traffic noise, and other sources.


When low-frequency noise combines with vibration, it can create unwanted sounds that are often difficult to pinpoint or eliminate. These sounds can cause discomfort, annoyance, and even health problems.


Some examples of low-frequency noise include the hum of an air conditioner, the rumble of a large machine, or the vibration of a train. These sounds are often felt more than heard and can be difficult to block out or reduce.


One way to reduce low-frequency noise is to use soundproofing materials. These materials can help to absorb or deflect sound waves, reducing the amount of noise that enters or exits a space.


Another approach is to change the way the noise is generated. For example, modifying machinery or equipment to reduce vibration or using quieter machinery altogether.


💡 key Takeaway: Low-frequency noise, also known as infra-sound, operates at frequencies below the range of human hearing and is often produced by machinery, wind turbines, traffic noise, and other sources. Soundproofing materials and modifying machinery can help reduce low-frequency noise.


The Physiological Effects of Low-Frequency Noise Exposure


Low-frequency noise can cause several physiological effects on human health. Studies have shown that exposure to long-term low-frequency noise can lead to sleep disturbance, headaches, cardiovascular diseases, and even stress-related disorders. Let's discuss these effects in detail:


1. Sleep disturbance


Low-frequency noise can result in sleep disturbance. This is because, at low frequencies, noise can penetrate through walls and windows and is difficult to block. Studies have shown that exposure to low-frequency noise can alter the sleep spindle, which is responsible for deep sleep. A lack of deep sleep can cause daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and other health problems.


2. Headaches


Low-frequency noise can also trigger headaches in some people. Research has shown that people who are exposed to low-frequency noise for several hours can experience throbbing headaches. This is because low-frequency noise affects the brain's neurochemistry, leading to changes in blood flow to the brain.


3. Cardiovascular diseases


Exposure to long-term low-frequency noise can also increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, angina, and other heart problems. This is because exposure to low-frequency noise can increase stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, leading to raised blood pressure levels.


4. Stress-related disorders


Low-frequency noise can also lead to stress-related disorders such as anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. Prolonged exposure to low-frequency noise can cause changes in brain chemistry, leading to chronic stress and other related disorders.


💡 key Takeaway: Low-frequency noise can cause several physiological effects on human health, including sleep disturbance, headaches, cardiovascular diseases, and stress-related disorders.


How to Measure, Control and Reduce Noise Pollution




Noise pollution is a persistent issue that can impact your health and well-being, productivity, and overall quality of life. As such, it's important to be aware of ways to measure, control, and reduce noise pollution in your surroundings. Here are some tips:


1. Identify the sources


The first step in controlling and reducing noise pollution is to identify the sources of the noise. Sources can vary widely, including traffic, machinery, construction, music, and even people talking. By identifying the sources, you can take the necessary steps to reduce the noise.


2. Measure the noise levels


Once you have identified the sources of the noise, the next step is to measure the noise levels. This can be done using a sound level meter, which measures the intensity of the sound in decibels (dB). In general, noise levels above 85 dB can cause permanent hearing damage, so it's important to keep noise levels below this threshold.


3. Control the sources


Once you have measured the noise levels, the next step is to control the sources of the noise. This can be done using a variety of methods, including sound barriers, noise-cancelling headphones, and earplugs. You can also try to minimize the use of noisy machinery or equipment during periods when people are likely to be disturbed, such as during the early morning or late at night.


4. Use sound-absorbing materials


Another effective way to control noise pollution is to use sound-absorbing materials. These materials can include carpets, curtains, and acoustic panels, which can help to reduce noise levels by absorbing sound waves.


5. Adopt good habits


Finally, it's important to adopt good habits to reduce noise pollution. This can include being mindful of the noise you make, such as turning down the volume on your TV or music, or using headphones when listening to music. You can also encourage others around you to adopt similar habits.


Wearable technology for monitoring noise exposure is an emerging trend. You can explore products like [noise level meters](Amazon link) for a more in-depth understanding.


💡 key Takeaway: To control and reduce noise pollution, it's important to identify the sources, measure the noise levels, control the sources using sound barriers and other methods, use sound-absorbing materials, and adopt good habits to reduce noise pollution.


Future Trends and Research Directions in the Field of Sound and Noise




As the world grows increasingly noisy, researchers and scientists are becoming more interested in studying the impact of different types of sounds and noise on our health, well-being, and cognitive abilities. Here are some of the future trends and research directions in the field of sound and noise:


1. Understanding the effects of high and low-frequency noise on the human body


High-frequency sounds have a higher pitch and can be more irritating to the human ear, while low-frequency sounds are often felt more than heard and can cause physical discomfort. Research is being conducted to understand how exposure to these different types of noise can impact our physical and mental health, including our cognitive abilities and sleep quality.


2. Developing new techniques for measuring noise exposure


Traditional methods for measuring noise exposure rely heavily on subjective reports from individuals or the use of sound level meters that only provide a general measure of noise level. Researchers are exploring the development of new techniques, such as wearable technology, to better monitor individual noise exposure over time.


3. Studying the impact of noise pollution on wildlife


Not only does noise pollution impact humans, but it also has significant effects on wildlife populations. Researchers are studying how noise pollution affects animal behaviour, including their ability to communicate with each other and find food. This research can help develop strategies to minimize the impact of human noise on wildlife habitats.


4. Developing new noise control technologies


In addition to understanding the impact of different types of noise, research is being conducted to develop new technologies to control and reduce noise, particularly in urban environments. These technologies include noise barriers and active noise cancellation systems.


Advanced noise-cancelling headphones (Amazon link) and noise-cancelling devices are likely to shape the future of noise control.


💡 key Takeaway: As sound and noise continue to play a significant role in our lives, researchers and scientists are working to better understand their impact on our health and well-being. With new techniques for measuring noise exposure and the development of new noise control technologies, the future looks promising for reducing the negative impacts of noise pollution on our lives.


Conclusion




Most people are familiar with high-frequency sounds, such as the sound of a person speaking. These sounds have a frequency of 20,000 to 20,000,000 Hz. Low-frequency sounds, such as the sound of thunder, have a frequency of below 20,000 Hz.


The main difference between high- and low-frequency sounds is that high-frequency sounds are more audible to the human ear. This is because they travel farther and are more powerful. Some common applications of high-frequency sounds include broadcasting, air traffic control, and medical imaging.


Low-frequency sounds are used in a variety of applications, such as shipping, construction, and machine operation.


FAQ


Q: What are high and low-frequency noise? A: High-frequency noise refers to sounds with a high pitch, typically above 2,000 Hz, while low-frequency noise refers to sounds with a low pitch, typically below 250 Hz.


Q: What are examples of high-frequency and low-frequency sounds? A: Examples of high-frequency sounds include birds chirping, a whistle, and a child's scream. Examples of low-frequency sounds include thunder, a bass guitar, and a large truck passing by.


Q: What are middle-frequency noise examples? A: Middle-frequency noise refers to sounds with a pitch between high and low-frequency sounds, typically between 250 Hz and 2,000 Hz. Examples of middle-frequency sounds include human speech, a vacuum cleaner, and a car engine.


Q: What is an example of low-frequency noise? A: An example of a low-frequency noise is the hum of an air conditioner or the rumble of a train.


Q: What are the 3 types of sound? A: The three types of sound are: (1) infrasonic, which has a frequency below 20 Hz; (2) audible, which has a frequency between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz; and (3) ultrasonic, which has a frequency above 20,000 Hz.


Q: Why do low-frequency sounds bother me? A: Low-frequency sounds can be bothersome to some individuals because they can penetrate through walls and are harder to block out with earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. In addition, prolonged exposure to low-frequency sounds can cause physical discomfort such as headaches and nausea.

bottom of page