Communication Noise- 5 Types of Noises in Communication

Types of Noise in Communication are Physical, Factual, Physiological, Psychological, Semantic, and Cultural.

Communication Noise

Communication noise means any barrier to the effective communication process. Noises bar the effective communication process between senders and receivers. The different types of noise in communication are physical, physiological, psychological, semantic, and cultural. These noises distract the sender and receiver of the communication process from listening to the message effectively. Noise bars the effectiveness of the communication process; therefore, it is also known as a barrier to communication. Noise is one of the communication elements, followed by Context, Sender, Encoder,  Message, Channel, Decoder, Receiver, and Feedback.

Communication noises are presented in all communication contexts, such as face-to-face, group, organizational, and mediated communication. The researchers have mentioned the noise in the three communication models, for example, linear, interactive, and transactional communication models.

Shannon and Weaver’s communication model introduced noise initially in the linear communication model in 1949. Later, many researchers include the noise in their model. A comprehensive communication model certainly includes noise to explain the communication process.

The communication process will be more effective, productive, and interactive if there are no noises present. Many scholars are researching to find out the solution to overcome noise in communication. Researchers have identified that in the U.S.A., business organizations are losing billions of dollars due to noise in communication.

Example of noises in communication

Ela is very sick, and she is taking a rest at home. She calls her husband to bring some medicines, and they interact on a mobile phone. At the same time, her daughter Elon is watching television at a high volume. Therefore, Ela could not understand what her husband said to her precisely. So, she asks her husband again to be confirmed.

Television sounds are physical noise, and her sickness is an example of physiological noise.

5 Types of Noise in Communication

The five types of noise in communication are physical, physiological, psychological, semantic, and cultural noises. However, some additional noises in the communication process include syntactic, emotional, medium, encoding, decoding noises, etc. 

Types of Noise in Communication

Types of Noise in Communication

Five Types of noises in communication are:
  1. Physical Noise
  2. Physiological Noise
  3. Psychological Noise
  4. Syntactical Noise
  5. Cultural Noise

1. Physical Noise in Communication

Physical noise is the external and unnecessary sound that is an obstacle to effective communication. It is also a communication disturbance created by the environment. Therefore, physical noise is also known as environmental or factual noise in communication. Factual noise comes from ambient background noise in the environment.

Example of Physical Noise

For example, rain, thunderstorms, horns, outside building sounds, and sounds from fans, lights, and windows are the best examples of physical or environmental noise. Besides loud music, barking dogs, and noisy conflict nearby, vehicle sounds are examples of physical noise. These are also examples of factual noise in communication. 

Factual Noise Example

“During the city council meeting discussing zoning regulations, the council members tried to focus on proposed changes to residential zoning laws. However, the meeting room was filled with factual noise as attendees raised unrelated issues about parking violations, noise complaints, and streetlight repairs. Despite the council’s efforts to steer the discussion back to the agenda, the factual noise persisted, hindering productive dialogue and delaying decision-making on the crucial zoning matters.”

2. Physiological Noise in Communication

Physiological noise is a barrier created by the communicator’s physical condition. Usually, physical illness and weakness usually produce physical noise, which is an obstacle to effective communication. 

Example of Physiological Noise

For example, Ela is having headaches; therefore, she can not concentrate in class. Here, a headache is a physical illness that hinders the listening process of communication.  Also, deafness and blindness are physical weaknesses or physiological noises that hinder listening. Talking too fast or slow and the high or low temperature in the room also generate physiological noise. 

3. Psychological Noise in Communication

Psychological noise is a communication barrier created by the communicator’s psychological factors, for example, values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. This type of noise interrupts our minds from concentrating on listening. People don’t like to listen or talk about those topics that make them down or not enjoyable. 

Example of Psychological Noise

For example, Ela is a Muslim girl who does not like to listen to any criticism of Islam. Therefore, she became distracted when her lecturer was talking about anti-Islam issues. Any sensitive issues like religious, ethnic, and political are examples of psychological noise. Apart from that, financial crisis, missing a beloved person, and an exhausting schedule may originate psychological noise. 

4. Semantic Noise in Communication

Semantic noise is a communication barrier created by confusion over the meaning of words. It comes from complex, technical, autochthonous, or grammatical errors in communication. Semantic noise occurs because of different message definitions between the sender and receiver. It also refers to the wrong grammatical sentence that makes the receiver unable to understand the meaning. Scholars term it as a syntactical barrier or noise.

Syntactical noise is a grammatically wrong sentence in which the receiver cannot accomplish the proper meaning. Using complex language during computer programming is an example of syntactical noise. It is also in contrast to syntactic sugar.

Example of Semantic Noise

Ela is an international student who studies at the University of Putra Malaysia. She is listening to lectures from her Malaysian lecturer. In the meantime, her lecturer says, ” I believe SEMUA understand this topic.” SEMUA is a Malaysian word that means everyone. Ela does not understand the meaning of SEMUA as she is not a Malaysian student. It is an example of semantic noise.

Similarly, a lecturer says the natural causes of climate change and global warming are different facts. However, a few students are confused about the lecturer’s statement. The confusion has come from semantic noise. These students believe that climate change and global warming are the same phenomena. Finally, the lecturer describes global warming as raising the environment’s temperature. On the other hand, climate change points to both increasing and decreasing the global temperature. It is also an example of semantic noise.

Additionally, jargon words, mispronunciations, unique words, and grammatically wrong sentences are Semantic Noise examples.

Five Examples of Semantic Noise
  1. Jargon or Technical Language: When specialized terminology or technical language is used, it may be difficult for individuals who are not familiar with the field to understand the message. For example, a scientist discussing complex biochemical processes may use terms that are incomprehensible to someone without a background in science, leading to miscommunication.
  2. Ambiguity: Ambiguous language or vague expressions can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. For instance, if someone says, “I’ll see you soon,” without specifying a timeframe, the interpretation of “soon” may vary among individuals, causing uncertainty about when the meeting will occur.
  3. Cultural Differences: Cultural differences in language and communication norms can result in semantic noise. Certain words or phrases may have different meanings or connotations in different cultures. For example, the phrase “thumbs up” may signal approval in some cultures but be considered offensive in others.
  4. Slang or Colloquialisms: The use of slang or colloquial expressions may hinder communication, particularly when interacting with individuals from different age groups or regions. Slang terms may not be universally understood or may carry different meanings depending on the context. For instance, the word “sick” can mean “cool” or “awesome” in youth slang, which may be confusing to older generations.
  5. Misinterpretation of Nonverbal Cues: Nonverbal cues, such as gestures, facial expressions, and body language, can add meaning to verbal communication. However, misinterpretation of these cues can lead to semantic noise. For example, a person may misinterpret a smile as indicating friendliness when it signifies discomfort or nervousness.

In summary, semantic noise arises from various factors that impede the accurate transmission and interpretation of meaning in communication. Awareness of these potential sources of semantic noise can help individuals communicate more effectively by striving for clarity, avoiding ambiguity, and considering the context and audience when conveying messages.

5. Cultural Noise in Communication

Cultural noise is a communication barrier created by incorrectly explaining another person’s behaviors. This noise is produced due to the wrong meaning of messages; therefore, it is a little similar to semantic noise. Especially cultural noise is created from the nonverbal communication of people from different cultural backgrounds. The basic kinds of nonverbal communication cues are posture, gesture, eye contact, space, touch, and dress-up. The meaning of nonverbal cues is not the same in every culture and society. The conflicting message in communication is one of the cultural noises. 

Apart from that, ethnocentrism, prejudices, stereotypes, and discrimination are also examples of cultural noises. These factors bar effective communication in a group or team. The four noises in group communication are ethnocentrism, prejudices, stereotypes, and discrimination.

Example of Cultural Noise

Jon is a Russian citizen who is studying at the University of Putra Malaysia. He offers his Malaysian woman friend to handshake, but she denies it. It makes Jon feel very embarrassed. Later, he understood that women do not like to handshake men in Malaysia, which is a cultural norm.

Cultural noise can manifest in various forms, including:
  1. Language Barriers: Variances in language proficiency and understanding can obstruct effective communication. Differences in vocabulary, grammar, and syntax may lead to misinterpretation of messages, particularly when idiomatic expressions or cultural nuances are involved.
  2. Nonverbal Communication: Gestures, body language, and facial expressions can carry different meanings across cultures. Misinterpretation of nonverbal cues may occur when individuals are unfamiliar with or misinterpret cultural norms related to personal space, eye contact, or touch.
  3. Cultural Stereotypes: Preconceived notions or stereotypes about certain cultural groups can influence perceptions and judgments, leading to biased interpretations of messages. Stereotypes may lead individuals to make assumptions about others based on cultural stereotypes rather than on the actual content of the message.
  4. Cultural Norms and Values: Differences in cultural norms and values can affect communication styles and preferences. For instance, cultures vary in terms of directness, politeness, and expression of emotions. Failure to recognize and adapt to these differences can result in communication barriers and misunderstandings.
  5. Contextual Differences: Cultural contexts shape the interpretation and meaning of messages. What may be acceptable or appropriate communication in one cultural context may be perceived differently or even negatively in another context. Without awareness of cultural norms and contextual differences, messages may be misinterpreted or ineffective.
Additional Noises in Communication Process

Apart from these five basic types of noises, the additional noises in the communication process are technical noise including shot and thermal noise, organizational noise, and noise in group conversation.

Electrical Noise (Shot and Thermal Noise)

Shot noise originates from the audio output of receivers. Thermal noise is generated from the random movement of electrons in the electronic device. 

 Organizational Noise

Organizational noise refers to encoding-decoding noises and transmitting noises. The encoding-decoding noises in corporate communication lack sensitivity to the receiver, basic communication skills, insufficient knowledge of the subject, information overload, emotional interference, etc. Additionally, the transmitting noises in organizational communication are the faulty connection of transmitting lines and channel barriers. 

Noise in Group Communication

Barriers to Group Communication are disturbances that hinder interactive communication among group members. The barrier in group communication usually hinders understanding other members of the group or team. The four types of barriers in group communication are Ethnocentrism, Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination. The group discussion has many stages, tensions, conflicts, etc. According to Tuckman’s Theory, the five stages of group discussion are Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. Members must overcome all these stages to achieve the independent and interdependent goal.

Difference Between Noise and Barrier

Noise and Barriers in conversation denote the same meaning, although people use them in different interaction contexts. For example, people use the word noise when encountering face-to-face or group communication obstacles. On the other hand, people use the word barrier when facing corporate communication or mediated communication obstacles. Noise refers to the hindrance during the interaction between sender and receiver. However, many people, including scholars, described them as noise barriers. People also term them a distraction, distortion, disturbance, etc.

In conclusion, communicators need to reduce noise as much as possible to make communication more effective, productive, and efficient. These communication noises are prevalent in every context of the communication process, such as barriers in face-to-face communication, mediated communication, corporate communication, and group communication. Noises are an unwanted element of the communication process.

Disadvantages of Communication Noise

Firstly, noises make people exhausted, tense, angry, and sick. Babies and ill people cannot sleep on environmental noise.

People can become deaf if they stay with a loud noise for a long time. Noise above 70 dB damages the eardrum.

Noise hampers organizations financially by reducing employees’ productivity. The workers cannot concentrate appropriately due to noise. The organizational noise occurs due to a faulty communication channel.

In 2022, researchers at HARVARD Medical School identified that people encounter autonomic stress reactions when they wake up from a loud sound. It might cause cardiac arrest.

Semantic noise spreads misleading information among people. Sometimes, it creates communal violence if the message comes from political or social leaders.

Citation for this Article (APA 7th Edition)
Kobiruzzaman, M. M. (2024). Communication Noise- 5 Types of Noises Barriers in Communication. Newsmoor- Best Online Learning Platform.