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Loudness vs. Volume: 4 Main Differences

    Although often used interchangeably, loudness and volume do not mean the same thing. According to their dictionary definitions, loudness refers to the noise level perceived by an individual, while volume is the absolute noise level that can be scientifically measured. 

    In the acoustics world, precision in language is very important when talking about loudness and volume. Besides these terms, there are other words that are also used to refer to the level of sounds, such as gain and amplification, both of which have different meanings. Understanding the difference between all of them is important, but also undoubtedly very confusing to the ordinary man. 

    To help you comprehend the matter better, we have decided to write the ultimate guide on the main differences between loudness and volume.

    The difference between loudness and volume in hearing impairment

    For people with hearing impairment, understanding loudness vs volume is very important. The best way to explain the difference between the two terms is with an example.

    For instance, imagine your family is watching a movie together and the TV volume is set at a certain level, which is the same for everyone in the room. However, for those family members who have some form of hearing impairment, the loudness of the TV may be much less than for those with normal hearing. While your first thought would be to increase the volume of the TV, you should know that by doing so you will not increase the loudness to the same degree for every person. 

    Controlling loudness and volume

    Another major difference between loudness and volume is in the way they are controlled. In general, in an environment where noise is prevalent, loudness is what we want to focus on. Unfortunately, there is no switch to reduce the loudness as there is for volume, so we have to take other measures to reduce the excess noise and make sure that it isn’t disruptive to the surrounding community.

    One such way is to use acoustic barriers which not only can reduce loudness, but also the volume of noise escaping the site. These barriers are usually lightweight acoustic foams, covered with durable and weather-resistant outer layers which can control and immediately mitigate excess noise.

    Measuring loudness and volume

    Another slight difference between loudness and volume is in the way they are measured. In general, volume is measured in decibels (dB), which is the measure of intensity relating to how much energy the pressure wave has. For the human ear, the quietest noise people hear is around 10dB, while any sounds that are above 130dB are considered painful.

    In addition, many will often describe volume using Sound Pressure Level (SPL), which measures the change in air pressure caused by a sound. The bigger the change in air pressure is, the louder the sound will be. These sounds are measured by the SPL meter.

    Loudness can also be measured in decibels, although there are other units of measurement such as sone or phon. These are used to indicate an individual’s perception of loudness.

    Loudness vs volume vs clarity

    Although loudness and volume are terms used to describe the noise, there is another term in the acoustic word that is also essential to hearing and that is clarity. In general, sound clarity refers to the quality of sound, more specifically the speaker’s ability to articulate speech without distortion and the listener’s ability to decipher various speech sounds.

    Knowing the difference between the three terms is very important. You may think that if you increase the loudness, the clarity will improve as a result and you will be able to hear and understand speech better. While this is partially true, any clarity problems you may be experiencing may not be resolved simply by increasing the loudness.

    The truth is an increase in loudness can actually be very uncomfortable and even cause you to experience more difficulties understanding what is being said. If this is the case with you, then it may be time to consider scheduling an appointment to check your hearing for any possible impairment.

    Photo by Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash

    Final thoughts

    In the acoustic world, understanding the main difference between loudness and volume is very important. Although both terms are often used interchangeably by many, they have several key differences everyone should know about. 

    To gain a better understanding of both, refer to our post and read about how loudness and volume differ from each other.

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