What is noise in communication?

Noise is any factor that interferes with or impedes effective communication between a sender and receiver. When noise disrupts the communication process or prevents the transmission of information, it is said to be communication noise.

Concept OverviewNoise in communication refers to any interference, disruption, or distortion that affects the transmission, reception, or interpretation of a message between a sender and a receiver. Noise can occur in various forms, hindering effective communication.
Key ElementsKey elements of noise in communication include:1. Sender: The individual or entity transmitting the message.2. Receiver: The person or entity intended to receive the message.3. Message: The content or information being communicated.4. Channel: The medium or mode used for message transmission.5. External Factors: External elements or circumstances that introduce interference.
SenderThe sender is the originator of the message and plays a crucial role in ensuring message clarity and accuracy. Noise originating from the sender may include unclear expression, language barriers, or message inconsistency.
ReceiverThe receiver is the intended audience of the message. Noise affecting the receiver can result from distractions, misperceptions, or a lack of attentiveness. The receiver’s cognitive state and background can also influence the impact of noise.
MessageThe message is the content or information being communicated. Noise within the message can manifest as language ambiguity, complex terminology, or poorly structured content that makes interpretation difficult for the receiver.
ChannelThe channel refers to the medium or mode used for message transmission, such as face-to-face conversation, written text, telephone, or digital media. Noise can occur due to channel limitations, interruptions, or technical issues.
External FactorsExternal factors encompass various elements beyond the sender, receiver, message, and channel. These factors include environmental noise (e.g., loud background noise), cultural differences, psychological distractions, and even physical barriers.
ApplicationsUnderstanding noise in communication is crucial in multiple contexts:1. Media and Broadcasting: Minimizing interference for clear broadcast.2. Telecommunications: Ensuring message integrity in phone calls and digital communication.3. Public Speaking: Overcoming audience distractions to convey a message effectively.
Benefits– Awareness of noise enhances communication effectiveness.- Identification of noise sources enables mitigation strategies.- Clearer messages lead to reduced misunderstandings and errors.- Improved communication quality in various domains.
Drawbacks– Noise is often unpredictable and uncontrollable.- Multiple noise sources can complicate communication.- Noise may lead to message distortion or misinterpretation.- It can hinder effective persuasion or information transfer.

Understanding noise in communication

Noise in communication describes any impediment to the transmission of messages between sender and receiver.

During communication, noise may distract the person receiving the message to the point where they do not hear it completely.

Noise may also hinder the sender’s ability to communicate the message in the way they intended. 

Noise has the potential to have a major impact on how we view our interactions with others and also on our perceived communication proficiency.

While many of us can relate to communication problems at a loud bar for Friday night drinks, noise is present in almost any context or situation where communication takes place.

When information is misunderstood in some way, mistakes, confusion, hurt feelings, and even panic can result. In an organizational setting, communication noise has significant implications for marketing, company culture, and brand equity, to name a few contexts.

Types of communication noise

Noise in communication can be broadly divided into six types.

1 – Physical noise

Physical noise, also known as environmental noise, encompasses any type of external sound or stimuli such as passing traffic, thunderstorms, loud music, extreme temperatures, pop-up advertisements, and crowds. 

Those who walk past a window or door while a meeting is in place and distract their co-worker is also an example of physical noise.

2 – Semantic noise

Semantic noise arises when there is confusion over the meaning of words and may be grammatical, autochthonous (cultural), complex, or technical in nature.

This type of noise tends to be caused by senders who transmit information that contains abstract concepts, improper context, professional jargon, regional colloquialisms, and grammatical or technical errors.

Doctors who communicate to patients using medical terminology, for example, may find that the patient is unable to understand them.

3 – Physiological noise

This refers to any physiological factor that may affect communication. It may be present in someone who is sick, tired, hungry, on medication, under the influence of alcohol, or has an actual hearing impairment.

4 – Psychological noise

Psychological noise is based on concepts such as personal bias, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness. Those who are highly emotional or suffer from mental illness may also find it difficult to understand others or communicate their thoughts.

5 – Cultural noise

Cultural noise, as the name suggests, arises when either the sender or receiver misinterprets the cultural expectations, values, attitudes, etiquette, or non-verbal cues of the other.

Prejudices, stereotypes, and discrimination are also forms of cultural noise that can hinder team and organizational performance.

6 – Technical noise

Technical noise refers to problems with equipment such as slow connectivity, microphone feedback, or a server that goes down in the middle of an important presentation.

Key takeaways:

  • Noise in communication describes any impediment to the transmission of messages between sender and receiver.
  • Noise has the potential to have a major impact on how we view our interactions with others and also on our perceived communication proficiency.
  • Noise in communication can be broadly divided into six types: physical, semantic, physiological, psychological, cultural, and technical.

Key Highlights

  • Introduction to Noise in Communication:
    • Noise in communication refers to any factor that disrupts or hinders effective communication between a sender and receiver.
    • Noise can cause misunderstandings, confusion, and misinterpretations, leading to various negative consequences.
  • Types of Communication Noise:
    • Physical Noise: External factors like environmental sounds, distractions, or background disturbances that interfere with communication.
    • Semantic Noise: Confusion over word meanings, including grammatical errors, cultural references, jargon, and technical terms.
    • Physiological Noise: Factors related to a person’s physical state, such as illness, tiredness, medication, or hearing impairments.
    • Psychological Noise: Hindrances due to personal biases, prejudices, emotional states, or mental health conditions affecting understanding.
    • Cultural Noise: Misinterpretations arising from differences in cultural expectations, values, attitudes, etiquette, and non-verbal cues.
    • Technical Noise: Equipment-related issues like poor connectivity, microphone problems, or technical failures during communication.
  • Impact of Noise:
    • Noise can significantly affect how people perceive their interactions and their communication abilities.
    • It has broader implications in various contexts, including marketing, company culture, and brand equity.
  • Key Takeaways:
    • Noise in communication disrupts the smooth transmission of messages between sender and receiver.
    • There are six main types of noise: physical, semantic, physiological, psychological, cultural, and technical.
    • Understanding and managing noise is essential to effective communication and minimizing misunderstandings.

Noise In Communication Strategies

Business ScenarioTypeApplicationImplicationOutcome
Video Conference with Technical GlitchesPhysical Noise:During a video conference, participants experience technical glitches such as audio or video lag, disrupting the flow of communication and causing delays.Frustration and communication inefficiency.Reduced meeting effectiveness and potential misunderstandings.
Miscommunication in Cross-Cultural Business MeetingsSemantic Noise:In cross-cultural meetings, language barriers and differences in terminology may lead to misinterpretations and misunderstandings, affecting the clarity of communication.Cultural sensitivity and clarification needed.Potential damage to relationships and business misunderstandings.
Ineffective Email CommunicationSemantic Noise:When employees use jargon, technical terms, or unclear language in emails, recipients may struggle to understand the message, leading to confusion and miscommunication.Misinterpretation and delayed responses.Reduced productivity and potential errors.
Crowded and Noisy Office SpaceEnvironmental Noise:In an open-plan office with high noise levels, employees may struggle to concentrate during important phone calls or meetings, hindering effective communication.Decreased focus and increased stress.Reduced work efficiency and potential errors.
Employee Resistance to ChangePsychological Noise:Employees facing organizational changes may experience psychological noise, such as fear, anxiety, or skepticism, which can affect their willingness to accept and adapt to change.Resistance to change and reduced cooperation.Delayed implementation and potential project setbacks.
Data Loss during Data TransmissionTechnical Noise:In data transmission between systems, technical noise such as data corruption or packet loss can disrupt the accurate transfer of information, leading to errors and data loss.Data integrity compromised and delays.Data inconsistencies and potential security risks.
Ambiguity in Project RequirementsSemantic Noise:When project requirements are unclear or vague, team members may interpret them differently, resulting in misalignment and confusion about project goals and tasks.Project delays and misaligned efforts.Reduced project efficiency and potential scope changes.
Social Media MisinformationSemantic Noise (Misinformation):Misinformation and fake news on social media platforms can spread rapidly, causing confusion and misinformation among customers, employees, or the public, impacting brand reputation.Misinformed stakeholders and reputation damage.Public mistrust and potential legal repercussions.
Language Barriers in Multinational TeamsSemantic Noise (Language Barriers):In multinational teams, language barriers can impede effective communication, leading to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and potential project delays.Reduced collaboration and team cohesion.Delayed project timelines and potential cultural clashes.
Background Noise in Customer Service CallsEnvironmental Noise (Background Noise):During customer service calls in busy call centers, background noise from other agents’ conversations can distract both customers and agents, affecting the quality of interaction and service.Customer frustration and agent distraction.Impaired customer service experience and potential dissatisfaction.
Interruptions during PresentationsEnvironmental Noise (Interruptions):During presentations, interruptions such as phone calls, incoming messages, or unrelated questions can disrupt the presenter’s flow, diverting attention and causing confusion among attendees.Presenter frustration and audience distraction.Reduced message retention and potential incomplete understanding.
Misaligned Communication in Remote TeamsSemantic Noise:In remote teams, misalignment in communication schedules or expectations regarding response times can lead to delays, miscommunication, and frustration among team members.Reduced teamwork and trust.Inefficient remote collaboration and potential conflicts.
Supplier Communication ErrorsSemantic Noise (Miscommunication):In supply chain communication, miscommunication between suppliers and buyers regarding product specifications or delivery dates can lead to errors, delays, and misunderstandings.Supply chain disruptions and increased costs.Impaired production processes and potential supply chain breakdowns.
Information Overload in EmailPsychological Noise (Information Overload):Employees receiving excessive emails and information may experience information overload, making it challenging to prioritize, process, and respond to messages effectively.Decreased email responsiveness and burnout.Reduced productivity and potential missed opportunities.
Advertising Clutter in Digital MarketingEnvironmental Noise (Advertising Clutter):In digital marketing, consumers encounter numerous ads daily, creating advertising clutter. This noise can make it challenging for businesses to grab consumers’ attention effectively and convey their message.Reduced ad visibility and consumer engagement.Lower click-through rates and potential ad ineffectiveness.
Employee Distractions during Virtual MeetingsEnvironmental Noise (Employee Distractions):During virtual meetings, employees may face distractions in their home environments, such as family members, pets, or household chores, diverting their attention from the meeting’s content.Reduced meeting engagement and focus.Inefficient meetings and potential miscommunication.
Miscommunication in Project UpdatesSemantic Noise (Miscommunication):When team members provide project updates using unclear language or incomplete information, stakeholders may misinterpret progress, leading to misaligned expectations and decisions.Stakeholder frustration and delays.Project setbacks and potential rework.

Read Next: Lasswell Communication Model, Linear Model Of Communication.

Connected Communication Models

Aristotle’s Model of Communication

The Aristotle model of communication is a linear model with a focus on public speaking. The Aristotle model of communication was developed by Greek philosopher and orator Aristotle, who proposed the linear model to demonstrate the importance of the speaker and their audience during communication. 

Communication Cycle

The linear model of communication is a relatively simplistic model envisaging a process in which a sender encodes and transmits a message that is received and decoded by a recipient. The linear model of communication suggests communication moves in one direction only. The sender transmits a message to the receiver, but the receiver does not transmit a response or provide feedback to the sender.

Berlo’s SMCR Model

Berlo’s SMCR model was created by American communication theorist David Berlo in 1960, who expanded the Shannon-Weaver model of communication into clear and distinct parts. Berlo’s SMCR model is a one-way or linear communication framework based on the Shannon-Weaver communication model.

Helical Model of Communication

The helical model of communication is a framework inspired by the three-dimensional spring-like curve of a helix. It argues communication is cyclical, continuous, non-repetitive, accumulative, and influenced by time and experience.

Lasswell Communication Model

The Lasswell communication model is a linear framework for explaining the communication process through segmentation. Lasswell proposed media propaganda performs three social functions: surveillance, correlation, and transmission. Lasswell believed the media could impact what viewers believed about the information presented.

Modus Tollens

Modus tollens is a deductive argument form and a rule of inference used to make conclusions of arguments and sets of arguments.  Modus tollens argues that if P is true then Q is also true. However, P is false. Therefore Q is also false. Modus tollens as an inference rule dates back to late antiquity where it was taught as part of Aristotelian logic. The first person to describe the rule in detail was Theophrastus, successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school.

Five Cannons of Rhetoric

The five canons of rhetoric were first organized by Roman philosopher Cicero in his treatise De Inventione in around 84 BC. Some 150 years later, Roman rhetorician Quintilian explored each of the five canons in more depth as part of his 12-volume textbook entitled Institutio Oratoria. The work helped the five canons become a major component of rhetorical education well into the medieval period. The five canons of rhetoric comprise a system for understanding powerful and effective communication.

Communication Strategy

A communication strategy framework clarifies how businesses should communicate with their employees, investors, customers, and suppliers. Some of the key elements of an effective communication strategy move around purpose, background, objectives, target audience, messaging, and approach.

Noise if Communication

Noise is any factor that interferes with or impedes effective communication between a sender and receiver. When noise disrupts the communication process or prevents the transmission of information, it is said to be communication noise.

7 Cs of Communication

The 7Cs of communication is a set of guiding principles on effective communication skills in business, moving around seven principles for effective business communication: clear, concise, concrete, correct, complete, coherent, and courteous.

Transactional Model of Communication

The transactional model of communication describes communication as a two-way, interactive process within social, relational, and cultural contexts. The transactional model of communication is best exemplified by two models. Barnlund’s model describes communication as a complex, multi-layered process where the feedback from the sender becomes the message for the receiver. Dance’s helical model is another example, which suggests communication is continuous, dynamic, evolutionary, and non-linear.

Horizontal Communication

Horizontal communication, often referred to as lateral communication, is communication that occurs between people at the same organizational level. In this context, communication describes any information that is transmitted between individuals, teams, departments, divisions, or units.

Communication Apprehension

Communication apprehension is a measure of the degree of anxiety someone feels in response to real (or anticipated) communication with another person or people.

Closed-Loop Communication

Closed-loop communication is a simple but effective technique used to avoid misunderstandings during the communication process. Here, the person receiving information repeats it back to the sender to ensure they have understood the message correctly. 

Grapevine In Communication

Grapevine communication describes informal, unstructured, workplace dialogue between employees and superiors. It was first described in the early 1800s after someone observed that the appearance of telegraph wires strung between transmission poles resembled a grapevine.

ASE Model

The ASE model posits that human behavior can be predicted if one studies the intention behind the behavior. It was created by health communication expert Hein de Vries in 1988. The ASE model believes intention and behavior are determined by cognitive variables such as attitude, social influence, and self-efficacy. The model also believes that intention predicts behavior such that one’s attitude toward a behavior is influenced by the consequences of that behavior. Three cognitive variables are the primary determinants of whether the intention to perform a new behavior was sustained: attitude, social influence, and self-efficacy. Various external variables also influence these factors.

Integrated Marketing Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Social Penetration Theory

Social penetration theory was developed by fellow psychologists Dalmas Taylor and Irwin Altman in their 1973 article Social Penetration: The Development of Interpersonal Relationships. Social penetration theory (SPT) posits that as a relationship develops, shallow and non-intimate communication evolves and becomes deeper and more intimate.

Hypodermic Needle

The hypodermic needle theory was first proposed by communication theorist Harold Lasswell in his 1927 book Propaganda Technique in the World War. The hypodermic needle theory is a communication model suggesting media messages are inserted into the brains of passive audiences.

7-38-55 Rule

The 7-38-55 rule was created by University of California psychology professor Albert Mehrabian and mentioned in his book Silent Messages.  The 7-38-55 rule describes the multi-faceted way in which people communicate emotions, claiming that 7% of communication occurred via spoken word, 38% through tone of voice, and the remaining 55% through body language.

Active Listening

Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone speaks and displaying understanding through verbal and non-verbal techniques. Active listening is a fundamental part of good communication, fostering a positive connection and building trust between individuals.

Main Free Guides:

About The Author

Scroll to Top