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Building noise localization log: use this sound-event log to help determine the source of building noises or sounds. Using a log to record observations of noises related to time of day, weather, equipment operation, building occupancy and activities can help determine where building sounds originate: a process of sound localization. Also see NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE, the topic home page.
Separately at SOUND CONTROL in buildings we provide a series of detailed articles on reducing unwanted building noise levels through building design, insulation, sound isolation, and noise barriers. Our page top table of relative sound levels (left) is from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.Table 5-14 is shown at the top of this page.
Two general approaches to tracking down the source of noises in buildings
For unidentified sound sources, general advice on tracking down the source and cause of annoying building sounds and noises includes a procedure similar to our ODOR DIAGNOSIS CHECKLIST, PROCEDURE.
To track a mystery-noise or sound to its source, try keeping a noise log, noting the following items - (print and use the table below if you find that helpful):
You can print this web page directly, or save it to a PDF file, or if you prefer, see
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: what instrument can I use to track a noise to its source ? A mechanic's stethoscope is too limited
Is there an instrument available that could be used to locate sound source? The common mechanical stethoscope is not very effective in locating the constant 24 hr humming sound in my home. The sound is a droning 60 HZ constant, but there are other sources harmonizing with it. I managed to eliminate the sound sources one by one and I am now left with the last two major ones. I badly need some help because my health is starting to go. - C.M. 4/23/2013
Reply: six approaches used by acoustical engineers to pinpoint or localize noise and sound sources
I agree that a stethoscope is not where one would start in finding the source of a widespread building noise.
A mechanic's stethoscope is useful principally when one is checking specific machinery, surfaces, or objects for sound emanation. This tool does not quickly direct one to an area of a building when a noise is heard as ambient or widespread. For moving from an ambient widespread noise to a source requires a combination of careful listening with methodological investigation such as keeping a noise-event log to relate sounds to changing conditions of time, weather, equipment in or out of operation, nearby activities, combined as well with visual inspection and occupant interviews.
Directional microphones are sold by a variety of vendors who supply some quite different models and technologies. But I'm not sure an affordable directional microphone will do a great job tracking down a building noise source.
I have not found good success at tracking down a "general" noise using pressure-gradient-type directional microphones - the common instrument used to pick up remote conversations or sounds. Since directional microphones pick up noise from any direction you can be fooled if a sound coming from direction A is bouncing off of a hard surface B at which you have aimed the device.  In other words some skill and experience are needed to use such tools. soundonsound.com has an excellent, if technical, explanation of the types of microphone and their sensitivity to the actual direction of sound emanation.
My reading about directional mikes suggests that equipment is intended for the recording industry or for the hearing aid industry but not for sound localization.
Engineers use about six different methods to pinpoint the origin of sounds, procedures described by Mehdi Batel et als (2003) . Six approaches to noise localization used by acoustic experts include
These approaches were tested and described for industrial applications such as the automotive industry and it does not appear that these methods, including a relatively new beamforming microphone array methods, are being used in residential noise complaint applications. Some are quite costly, some are quite time-consuming to use. Beamforming for sound localization can examine large objects (a car in a wind tunnel, for example) and is a more rapid process that might work in or at buildings, particularly where we are less interested in the precise sound level and mostly interested in finding the sound source.
If you can find an engineer who has access to beamforming sound-localization equipment, and if her employment and equipment costs are justified by your local noise problem, that approach may be what you need.
But before trying that more sophisticated and costly approach, a thoughtful site interview, investigation, and some data logging can very often find the source of a building noise. Perhaps these items will help you
Keep us informed on what success you have, as that may assist other readers.
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