Loudness measured by the method of absolute magnitude estimation is compared to loudness calculated in accordance with ISO 532 B [International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, 1966]. The measured and calculated loudness functions exhibit a similar pattern of loudness growth. Both measured and calculated loudness of a complex sound composed of a 1000‐Hz tone and broadband noise is a nonmonotonic function of the overall SPL of the complex. The nonmonotonic loudness‐growth pattern holds over a 30‐dB range from 73.5 to 103.5. To facilitate understanding of the results, a single cycle of data is analyzed in detail. The analysis shows that loudness patterns produced in the auditory system by the tone–noise complex can account for the observed effects. Moreover, they show that the A‐weighting and the loudness of the complex are negatively related. This inverse relation means that the A‐weighted SPL is an inappropriate and misleading indicator of the loudness of sound combinations with heterogeneous spectral envelopes. Consequently, its suitability for noise control is diminished. A loudness meter that combines the spectral shapes of different sounds to produce an overall perceived magnitude offers greater promise.

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