Acoustical Society of America (ASA) Standards

Standards developed by the Acoustical Society of America, or ASA (not to be confused with the previous name of ANSI, the American Standards Association), are specifically focused on a single subject: sound. Despite the concentrated scope of acoustics, the impact of ASA is felt in a wide range of industries and activities, due to the highly present and influential nature of sound.

For human beings, our main auditory organs are found in our ears. And, as such, the Acoustical Society of America has developed standard documents that seek to assure safety and reliability into products that come into contact with or protect the ear. For example, ANSI/ASA S12.6-2016 (R2020) – Methods for Measuring the Real-Ear Attenuation of Hearing Protectors specifies testing methods for measuring the noise-reducing capacity of hearing protection devices, such as earplugs. This type of document can benefit both professionals who are highly trained in making frequent use of the hearing protection devices and those who only need to use them occasionally.

As expected with a subject like acoustics, some guidelines by ASA deal with things a little more abstract. For example, ANSI/ASA S3.5-1997 (R2017) – Methods for Calculation of the Speech Intelligibility Index addresses, and actually initially established, the idea of speech intelligibility index (SII). Speech intelligibility index is a measure representing the intelligibility of speech under adverse conditions. The standard details the methods for calculating this value.

While the two previous examples are absolutely within the realm of knowledge and activity for the Acoustical Society of America, they do by no means cover the vast breadth of interest in which the organization is engaged. Specifically, ASA’s purpose is “to generate, disseminate, and promote the knowledge and practical application of acoustics.” Because of this, the Society is represented by members deriving from the variety of industries through which acoustics are relevant, including physics, robotics, physiology, psychology, architecture, music, oceanography, animal bioacoustics, and nearly all engineering disciplines.

A sea turtle preparing to crest the blue water due to acoustical noise issues needed to be detected with ASA.

Within the discipline of animal bioacoustics, sound can be a major problem for the lives of different marine animals. Noise pollution, generated by ship traffic, sonar, and other means is detrimental to the lives and fitness of fishes and sea turtles, as the animals naturally make use of sounds to navigate, communicate, find food, locate mates, and avoid predators. A standard developed by the Acoustical Society of America, ASA S3/SC1.4-2014 (R2019) – Sound Exposure Guidelines for Fishes and Sea Turtles, guides organizations in making conservation-minded decisions when it comes to their oceanic noise pollution.

Beyond hearing protectors, the intelligibility of speech, and the sounds affecting sea turtles and fishes, ASA standards are oriented towards giving guidance on sound emitted by machinery and equipment, sound pressure, sound in architecture, electrical acoustics, and terminology. The progress of the industry is also the interest of the Society’s publication, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, which has been around since 1929.

Some of the better-known Acoustical Society of America standards include:

ANSI/ASA S3.22-2014 – Specification of Hearing Aid Characteristics
ANSI/ASA S12.2-2019 – Criteria for Evaluating Room Noise
ANSI/ASA S1.13-2020 – Measurement of Sound Pressure Levels in Air
ANSI/ASA S3.6-2018 – Specification for Audiometers
ANSI/ASA S3.2-2009 (R2014) – Method for Measuring the Intelligibility of Speech over Communication Systems

Additional ASA standards are available on the ANSI Webstore.

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