Frequency and the sensation of sounds


  • W. Wong Dept. of Physiol., Toronto Univ., Ont., Canada
  • K.H. Norwich Dept. of Physiol., Toronto Univ., Ont., Canada


hearing, psychology, sound sensation, frequency, loudness, pitch, Weber fraction, intensity


The physical quantities, sound intensity, sound duration and frequency combine in a subtle manner to produce the psychoacoustic quantities, loudness and pitch. In an attempt to isolate the effects of each physical variable, experiments have been conducted in the past to determine the relationship between: (a) loudness and intensity, with frequency held constant; (b) pitch and frequency, with intensity held constant. The relationship between loudness/pitch and intensity/frequency has also been investigated using experiments on auditory discrimination. Discrimination experiments involve determining how much change in intensity (or frequency) is required to elicit a change in biological response. For example, a tone of 100 Hz can probably not be distinguished from a tone of 101 Hz at all relevant sound intensities, as long as the intensity is held constant between the two tones. Commonly one calculates the Weber fraction, which is the change in intensity/frequency divided by the reference intensity/frequency, required to produce a change in sensation. The Weber fraction is calculated over a range of intensities (or frequencies). There are two types of Weber fraction with which the authors shall be concerned, corresponding to experiments (a) and (b) above: (c) fractional changes in intensity, with frequency held constants; (d) fractional changes in frequency, with intensity held constant. The authors discuss these experiments and present a theoretical analysis



How to Cite

Wong W, Norwich K. Frequency and the sensation of sounds. Canadian Acoustics [Internet]. 1993Sep.1 [cited 2021Apr.14];21(3):133-4. Available from:



Proceedings of the Acoustics Week in Canada