1. What is Sound?
A sound is a form of energy that is caused when objects vibrate. The energy is transmitted to ears through the medium in which the vibration occurs. It means if there is no medium, no sound can be heard though vibrations occur.
How do we hear the sound?
Consider this example. When you beat a drum with a stick, vibrations are caused in the drum.
These vibrations travel in the form of waves through air molecules and reach your ears and the eardrum.
Then, the tiny and delicate bones of the middle part of the ear vibrate in the same way as that of the sound vibrations.
They then reach the inner ear or cochlea that has thousands of tiny hair cells, which convert the sound waves into electrical signals and send them to the brain through the auditory nerve.
Once the signal reaches the auditory nerve, your brain sends an acknowledgment saying that some sound signal is heard and received.
In some people, due to various reasons such as exposure to high sounds for a prolonged time or due to some medical reasons, the hair cells bend and eventually die and never grow back. This can cause hearing loss and tinnitus.
Can we see sound?
We all think sound waves are invisible. But do you know what? Whenever an object vibrates, we see sound in its vibration. The sound is an ordered vibration that we can see under some situations. When you see the vibrations of guitar wires or the ringing bell, you see sound.
Did you know? There are around 18,000 hair cells in each ear for human beings, and they are so tiny that all of them could fit on the head of a pin.
A sound mind in a sound body.
2. How sound propagates?
By now, we know that a sound is a form of energy and it travels in the form of waves. There are two types of waves:
- Longitudinal waves, in which the waves travel in the same direction as it is generated. Ex: Sound wave, ripples in water.
- Transverse waves, in which the waves travel perpendicular to the direction of origin of the wave. Ex: Light waves
- As it is the property with every longitudinal wave, sound waves have two components: compression and rarefaction. It means one sound wave = one compression + one rarefaction.
- Compression is where the molecules of the medium in which the sound propagates are all closest in the wave.
- Rarefaction is where the molecules are the farthest in the wave.
3. Terms related to Sound
- Wavelength: When they are generated from the source of the sound, sound waves repeat themselves during the transmission until they reach the intended sound receptor. The distance of the wave that repeats itself is called wavelength. As we have seen, one compression and one rarefaction make one wavelength for a sound wave.
- Time period: The time taken for one complete wave to travel its wavelength is called a time period, denoted by T, often measured in seconds.
- Frequency: It is the number of cycles of a wave that are generated in one second. This is the inverse of the time period.
- Pitch: It is the term that tells how high or how low a sound is. Different musical instruments produce a different range of pitch. Also, the ability to perceive pitch differs from individual to individual.
- Intensity: It is the amount of sound that is traveling through a square meter in one second. The intensity near the sound source is highest and it keeps decreasing as sound travels farther from the source. This is the reason you cannot hear the sound that is coming from a farther distance. The intensity of sound is measured in decibels.
4. Types of Sound
- Sound waves occur in the range of 20Hz to 20kHz.
- Humans can hear sound waves best in the range of 1000Hz to 6000Hz, though this differs with individuals and age.
- Sounds below 20Hz are called infrasound waves and the ones above 20KHz are called ultrasound waves. Humans cannot perceive them under normal circumstances. Some animals such as bats and dolphins can hear these sounds.
Sound is the vocabulary of nature. – Pierre Schaeffer
5. Speed of Sound
A sound wave travels in the medium surrounding it. The speed at which it travels differs with the medium. The energy of the sound wave gets transmitted to the molecules of the medium and then travel to the receptor. This means if the molecules of the medium are closer, no loss of sound energy takes place and the sound also travels faster.
Among all the substances or matter, where are the molecules tightly bounded? Of course, in solids! Hence the speed of sound is maximum in solids, then comes the liquids and finally the gases or air.
In a vacuum, sound cannot be heard, because there is no medium for transmission. This is the reason why astronauts use radios for communicating with each other in space.
The speed of sound depends on the temperature of the medium. This is because when the medium is hot, the molecules are free to move faster and hence sound also travels faster.
In general, when we mention the speed of air, it is taken as the speed of sound in dry air. The following formula gives the relation between the speed of sound and the temperature of the medium:
C air = 20.05 √ (T/K)
Where C air is the speed of air
T is the thermodynamic temperature in Kelvin
K is the heat capacity ratio
6. Interesting facts about Sound
- The speed of sound in water differs with its salinity. Besides, the speed of sound in water is an important parameter in acoustical oceanography and sonar research.
- Most flies cannot hear any sounds.
- People with a condition called Superior Canal Dehiscence can hear their own body sounds with perfection, including their eye movement sounds!
- The science of the study of sounds is called acoustics. Acoustics play an important role in sound recording in movies.
- When you gently rub your index finger and thumb, it generates an ultrasonic signal. Bats can perceive this sound, and this technique is usually used for detecting bats in an area.
- Animals make sounds to communicate and stay in touch with each other. For example, an elephant can make a sound as high as 85 to 95 decibels to communicate with its friend which is at a mile or farther.
- Orchestras, sounds from firecrackers and high sounds at pubs and DJs are generally not good for your hearing. They can cause long-run damage to your hearing.
- Sound travels four times faster in water than in air.
- The loudest sound on the Earth is that of an erupting volcano.
- When lightning occurs, it heats the surrounding air very rapidly. This causes the sound of thundering.
- Light travels faster than sound because it does not need a medium for travel, while sound needs one.
- Natural sounds such as the chirping of birds, sounds of waves or raindrops, can help you to fall asleep easily.
- Horror films use infrared sounds to create a feeling of anxiety and sorrow to the viewers.
- Next time you hear your own recorded voice; you may not like it that much as with most other people. This is because we tend to listen to our voice in a very different way in our mind that compared to a recorded one.
- Researches have proven that the sounds that we hear have an impact on our psychology and nervous system.
Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear to be bright until you hear them speak. – Brian Williams
7. How CalculatorHut’s Speed of Sound calculator helps you?
Speed of sound varies with temperature, and this calculation is made simpler using CalculatorHut’s speed of sound calculator. You need to enter the temperature at which you want to calculate the speed of sound, and you get results instantaneously.
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