Why is it so hard to hear what pitch everyday noises are creating?



You can go listen to someone sing or play an instrument and it’s really easy to figure out exactly what pitches they might be creating. Why can’t we do the same thing for all noises?

In: Biology

When a tone generator plays a note, you’re hearing a single pitch. The sound is a uniform wave with a single frequency.

When an instrument plays a note, you’re hearing that single pitch, often with additional pitches that support that pitch, harmonics that fill the tone out, but you’re still primarily hearing one pitch, that one frequency.

Noise is often a load of frequencies all at once. You get wave interferences which break the waves and unexpected amplifications that make it hard to pick out a single frequency. It’s constantly changing. There’s no intentional harmonic support, like with an instrument. You get a whole bunch of waves with various frequencies at different amplitudes.

White noise is effectively a whole spectrum of waves with equal amplitude.