Soundproofing is any means of reducing the sound pressure with respect to a specified sound source and receptor. There are several basic approaches to reducing sound: increasing the distance between source and receiver, using noise barriers to block or absorb the energy of the sound waves, using damping structures such as sound baffles, or using active antinoise sound generators.
Soundproofing affects sound in two different ways: noise reduction and noise absorption. Noise reduction simply blocks the passage of sound waves through the use of distance and intervening objects in the sound path. Noise absorption operates by transforming the sound wave. Noise absorption involves suppressing echoes, reverberation, resonance and reflection. The damping characteristics of the materials it is made out of are important in noise absorption. The wetness or moisture level in a medium can also reflect sound waves, significantly reducing and distorting the sound traveling through it, making moisture an important factor in soundproofing.
A noise barrier (also called a soundwall, sound berm, sound barrier, or acoustical barrier) is an exterior structure designed to protect sensitive land uses from noise pollution. Noise barriers are the most effective method of mitigating roadway, railway, and industrial noise sources – other than cessation of the source activity or use of source controls.
In the case of surface transportation noise, other methods of reducing the source noise intensity include encouraging the use of hybrid and electric vehicles, improving automobile aerodynamics and tire design, and choosing low-noise paving material. Extensive use of noise barriers began in the United States after noise regulations were introduced in the early 1970s.
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