A broad definition of noise in communication is something that keeps a receiver from completely comprehending a message. Noise comes in many forms. Distractions can inhibit a person from offering his undivided attention and may keep him from fully grasping what you are trying to say. These disturbances guarantee that the receiver will either misinterpret your information or not understand it at all.
Sometimes the biggest impediment to clear communication is everyday environmental noise. This can include loud passersby, music (think talking over a band at a concert), traffic or children playing. Even a simple phone ringing can distract a listener so that she cannot fully focus on a conversation. Annoying whispering and classroom side bar conversations can interfere with the ability of the instructor and other students to focus on the material during a lecture. Other physical conditions that can hinder communication are physical illness, hearing impairments, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or being tired.
Semantic noise affects communication when people communicate from different playing fields. For example, a patient without knowledge of medical terminology may have no idea what the doctor is saying. In other words, they are working from different understandings, such as different vocabularies, primary languages or dialects. Noise can also occur when pedantic vocabulary or regional colloquilisms break down communication. Cross-cultural communication noise can include mistaken interpretations of voice tone, eye contact and body language. Illegible handwriting and using slang can also be semantic noises that complicate effective communication.
Psychological noise can be more difficult to define in a particular situation, as the mental makeup of every person is different. This type of noise includes concepts like prejudices, narrow-mindedness and personal bias. Communication can also be difficult if a person is feeling very emotional — anger, sadness and even joy can affect how much someone can pay attention during a conversation. Individuals with psychological problems such as severe mental illness may have trouble understanding others or communicating their own thoughts.