A principal reason for measuring sound is to relate our acoustic environment to measures of human response. Characterization of the relevant relationships between physical exposure and the effects of noise on people has been fostered through the use of a wide variety of sound descriptors. Many of these descriptors were historically derived from sets of contours representing judgments of loudness, noisiness, or acceptability of sound. Many of these evolved merely as variations of one another. The apparent differences between the many assorted descriptors are simply due to differences in treatment of the many acoustic and non-acoustic parameters which are known or thought to influence human response to sound. The purpose of this tutorial paper is to review some of the more common sound descriptors used to portray our acoustic environment, as well as their derivations, formulation, applicability, and limitations.
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