Everyday we hear sounds from various sources like humans, birds, bells, machines, vehicles, televisions, radios etc. Sound is a form of energy which produces a sensation of hearing in our ears. There are also other forms of energy like mechanical energy, heat energy, light energy etc. We have talked about mechanical energy in the previous chapters. You have been taught about conservation of energy, which states that we can neither create nor destroy energy. We can just change it from one form to another. When you clap, a sound is produced. Can you produce sound without utilising your energy? Which form of energy did you use to produce sound? In this chapter we are going to learn how sound is produced and how it is transmitted through a medium and received by our ear.
1. Take a tuning fork and set it vibrating by striking its prong on a rubber pad. Bring it near your ear.
2. Do you hear any sound?
3. Touch one of the prongs of the vibrating tuning fork with your finger and share your experience with your friends.
Sound is produced by vibrating objects. The matter or substance through which sound is transmitted is called a medium. It can be solid, liquid or gas. Sound moves through a medium from the point of generation to the listener. When an object vibrates, it sets the particles of the medium around it vibrating. The particles do not travel all the way from the vibrating object to the ear. A particle of the medium in contact with the vibrating object is first displaced from its equilibrium position. It then exerts a force on the adjacent particle. As a result of which the adjacent particle gets displaced from its position of rest. After displacing the adjacent particle the first particle comes back to its original position. This process continues in the medium till the sound reaches your ear. The disturbance created by a source of sound in the medium travels through the medium and not the particles of the medium.
Sound bounces off a solid or a liquid like a rubber ball bounces off a wall. Like light, sound gets reflected at the surface of a solid or liquid and follows the same laws of reflection as you have studied in earlier classes. The directions in which the sound is incident and is reflected make equal angles with the normal to the reflecting surface at the point of incidence, and the three are in the same plane. An obstacle of large size which may be polished or rough is needed for the reflection of sound waves.
The audible range of sound for human beings extends from about 20 Hz to 20000 Hz (one Hz = one cycle/s). Children under the age of five and some animals, such as dogs can hear up to 25 kHz (1 kHz = 1000 Hz). As people grow older their ears become less sensitive to higher frequencies. Sounds of frequencies below 20 Hz are called infrasonic sound or infrasound. If we could hear infrasound we would hear the vibrations of a pendulum just as we hear the vibrations of the wings of a bee. Rhinoceroses communicate using infrasound of frequency as low as 5 Hz. Whales and elephants produce sound in the infrasound range.
Ultrasounds are high frequency waves.
Ultrasounds are able to travel along welldefined
paths even in the presence of
obstacles. Ultrasounds are used extensively
in industries and for medical purposes.
Ultrasound is generally used to clean parts located in hard-to-reach places, for example, spiral tube, odd shaped parts, electronic components etc. Objects to be cleaned are placed in a cleaning solution and ultrasonic waves are sent into the solution. Due to the high frequency, the particles of dust, grease and dirt get detached and drop out. The objects thus get thoroughly cleaned.
How do we hear? We are able to hear with the help of an extremely sensitive device called the ear. It allows us to convert pressure variations in air with audible frequencies into electric signals that travel to the brain via the auditory nerve. The auditory aspect of human ear is discussed below.