Re: Loudness of Sounds (Fatima Husain )

Subject: Re: Loudness of Sounds
From:    Fatima Husain  <fhusain(at)>
Date:    Wed, 18 Apr 2001 11:06:38 -0400

This message is in MIME format. The first part should be readable text, while the remaining parts are likely unreadable without MIME-aware tools. Send mail to mime(at) for more info. --1918933198-1033826539-987606261=:4385 Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; CHARSET=US-ASCII Content-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.95.1010418110427.4385B(at)retina> Thanks so much to all those who replied. I forgot to mention in my original mail that we are primarily interested in MRI activations caused due to the nature of the stimuli and not due to loudness. However, we want to control for the loudness, so that it does not act as an additonal cue. I am appending a text file with the responses I received. --fatima fhusain(at) fthusain(at) ---------------------------------------------------- Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 13:21:56 -0500 (EST) From: Brian Gygi <bgygi(at)> To: Fatima Husain <fhusain(at)> Subject: Re: Loudness of sounds Hi Fatima, In our lab we use environmental sounds (naturally occurring non-speech stimuli) which tend to be broadband and to have complex temporal envelopes, with large gaps of silences and strong transients. We have used two methods: one is to equate the peak RMS in a 100 ms window for the sounds. This ensures that the loudest bursts are the same amplitude, but it also means that steady-state sounds tend to be louder overall. Another method we used (which we prefer) is to equate the RMS after subtracting silences of greater than 50 ms. This is called the 'pause-corrected RMS' and is recommended for speech in Ludvigsen, C. (1992). "Comparison of certain measures of speech and noise level," Scand. Audiol. 21, 23-29. I hope this helps, Brian Gygi ------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 14:43:05 -0400 From: Jont Allen <jba(at)> Subject: Re: Loudness of sounds Fatima Husain wrote: > We keep running into this problem in my lab and I am wondering if you could > help. We often have stimuli sets that includes both speech and non-speech > stimuli. How do we equalize their loudness? One solution to this problem (I am reading between the lines here), is to rove the level to remove any loudness cues. Instead of equalizing the loudness, remove it as a reliable cue. Of course this is not answering the question you asked, but may help with your ultimate goal. > The first step is to see > that they all have the same RMS power. But, the different stimuli being > broadband and narrowband,the stimuli may still seem to have differing loudness. > > Is this enough? > If not, what do we do as the next step? Do we measure output at the end of > the headphones and equalize then? This is not always possible, esp. for > headphones which are already part of the fMRI scanner...or we are piping > sounds through a convoluted system. I am asking primarily with reference > to fMRI studies. > > Any info if appreciated. Thanks! I will post a summary of responses on > the list. If you really want the loudness to be the same, you may need to do an experiment before hand, that sets them equal. This would be tedious of course. > --fatima > > fhusain(at) > fthusain(at) Jont -- ------------------------------------------------------- From: "Donald D. Greenwood" <ddg(at)> Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 12:12:00 -0700 Subject: Re: Loudness of sounds Various respondents will write you that since power is a property of the stimulus whereas loudness is an attribute of sensation (not a parameter of the stimulus), you cannot expect sounds equated on one basis to be equal on the other. However, few will point you to the following reference, which should be included in your reading. Cacace, A.T. and Margolis, R.H. (1983) On the loudness of complex stimuli and its relationship to cochlear excitation. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 78, 1568-1573. <nofill> I hope that you find it useful. D. D. Greenwood ----------------------------------------------------------- Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 09:06:23 +0100 (BST) From: John Culling <jfc(at)> Subject: Re: Loudness of sounds At the very least you should use an A-weighted measure of rms. Whether you go beyond that to using a loudness model depends on how inportant loudness matching is for you. John. -------------------------------------------- From: "Ward Drennan" <ward(at)> To: "Fatima Husain" <fhusain(at)> Subject: Re: Loudness of sounds We present a speech signal and noise in a dome-shaped chamber to measure localization ability. To equalize the levels we created waves with the same RMS and then equalized the levels using a sound level meter at the center of the dome. Effectively, this is the same as measuring the level at the end of the headphone and equalizing them. Could you place a Kemar manikin in the fMRI and record through it, or hook up a sound level meter through it? Loudness is a subjective judgement. If you wanted to measure that, could you place the listeners where you want them, play the sounds and give them the ability to adjust the levels themselves until the loudness is matched? It would seem to me matching levels through headphones with a Kemar manikin is the best bet. Would that work for you? Ward Drennan, Ph. D. Hearing Scientist ------------------------------------------------ From: jan schnupp <jan.schnupp(at)> Subject: Re: Loudness of sounds Dear Fatima, there is no perfect way of equalizing loudness, or rather, the best way will depend on the questions that you are asking. If your stimuli are very different in bandwidth then equalizing the overall RMS energy can lead to very different energies per active critical band in the auditory system. As a consequence, the "weaker" narrowband sound could, for example, give you a stronger MRI signal because it focusses it's energy on a few bands, rather than dissipating it over many. Loudness perception is quite involved. B. Moore's chapter on loudness in "An Intro to the Psych of Hearing" is not a bad place to start reading up about all the factors that come in to it. Bandwidth is not the only factor that may have to be taken into account. If you are sometimes looking at very broad bands you may have to do something like A weighting to take into account the lower sensitivity at the edges of the auditory range. And temporal factors may play a role if some of your stimuli are a lot more "impulsive" than others. Whether you need to worry about these things at all depends entirely on the exact question you are asking and you will have to review your strategy for equalising loudness from one experiment to another. If for you loudness is just a "nuisance factor" and all you are trying to do is to ensure that any systematic loudness variation does not obscure some other aspect which you are really interested in, then perhaps you could get the subjects to adjust the intensity of the test stimuli before the experiments so that they sound about equally loud, and then during the experiment vary the intensity of each stimulus randomly around that subjectively equalised setting. If the patterns you get are relatively insensitive to the variation in intensity then you can argue that loudness was not important. Hope that helps, Jan Dr. Jan Schnupp Oxford University, Laboratory of Physiology, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PT, U.K. Tel (+44-1865) 272 513 Fax (+44-1865) 272 469 ------------------------------------------------------------ From: Larry Shotland <shotland(at)> To: fthusain(at) Subject: loudness Fatima You might want to measure the bandwidth of your signals and adjust loudness with this in mind, as increased bandwidth of otherwise equal signals will equate to a higher sound pressure. Larry Larry Shotland, Ph.D. Hearing Section, Neuro-Otology Branch National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Building 10, Room 5C-306 Bethesda, MD 20892 --1918933198-1033826539-987606261=:4385--

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