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Finish Line & Beyond



Propagation Media for Sound

Electric Bell Experiment

Human Ear

Noise ©2009 send your queries to

Finish Line & Beyond

Sound is vibration transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of

frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard,
or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.

Sound is Produced by a Vibrating Body

Sound is produced by a vibrating body. The vibrating body can be a string on a violin
or piano, a column of air in an organ pipe or clarinet, an animal skin or piece of
plastic stretched over a drum, or the vocal cords in a person's throat, to name but a
few. A simple way to illustrate the production of sound is by studying the vibration of
a string.

The to and fro or back and forth motion of an object is termed as vibration.

Sound Produced by Humans

In humans, the sound is produced by the voice box or the larynx. It is at the upper
end of the windpipe. Two vocal cords are stretched across the voice box or larynx
in such a way that it leaves a narrow slit between them for the passage of air.

When the lungs force air through the slit, the vocal cords vibrate, producing sound.
Muscles attached to the vocal cords can make the cords tight or loose. When the
vocal cords are tight and thin, the type or quality of voice is different from that when
they are loose and thick.

The vocal cords in men are about 20mm long. In women these are about 5mm
shorter. Children have very short vocal cords. This is the reason why the voices of
men, women and children are different.

Sound Needs a Medium for Propagation

The origin of sound is always some vibrating body. In some cases the vibrations of
the source may be very small or very large that it may not be possible to detect
them. This type of vibrations is produced by tuning fork, drum, bell, the string of a
guitar etc. Human voice originates from the vibrations of the vocal chords and the
sound from the musical instruments is due to the vibrations of the air columns.
Sound travels in the form of longitudinal wave and it requires a material medium for
its propagation. This can be explained by following example: ©2009 send your queries to

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Electric bell suspended inside an airtight glass bell jar

An electric bell is suspended inside an airtight glass bell jar connected to a vacuum
pump. As the electric bell circuit is completed, the sound is heard. Now if the air is
slowly removed from the bell jar by using a vacuum pump, the intensity of sound
goes on decreasing and finally no sound is heard when all the air is drawn out. We
would be seeing the hammer striking the gong repeatedly. This clearly proves that
sound requires a material for its propagation.

Sound can propagate not only through gases but also through solids and liquids.
Some materials like air, water, iron etc can easily transmit sound energy from one
place to another. On the other hand materials like blanket and thick curtains absorb
most of the sound energy.

We hear Sound through Our Ears

The shape of the outer part of the ear is like a funnel. When sound enters in it, it
travels down a canal at the end of which a thin membrane is stretched tightly. It is
called the eardrum. It performs an important function.

The eardrum is like a stretched rubber sheet. Sound vibrations make the eardrum
vibrate. The eardrum sends vibrations to the inner ear. From there, the signal goes
to the brain.

Amplitude, Time Period And Frequency Of A Vibration

The to and fro motion of an object is known as vibration. This motion is also called
oscillatory motion.

The number of oscillations per second is called the frequency of oscillation.

Frequency is expressed in hertz. Its symbol is Hz. A frequency of 1 Hz is one
oscillation per second.

We can recognise many familiar sounds without seeing the objects producing them.
These sounds must be different to enable us to recognise them. Amplitude and
frequency are two important properties of any sound.

Loudness and Pitch ©2009 send your queries to

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Loudness is a function of the sound wave's amplitude. The greater the amplitude, the
greater the volume. Pitch is related to its frequency. The higher the frequency, the
higher the pitch.

The loudness of sound depends on its amplitude. When the amplitude of vibration is
large, the sound produced is loud. When the amplitude is small, the sound produced
is feeble.

The frequency determines the shrillness or pitch of a sound. If the frequency of

vibration is higher we say that the sound is shrill and has a higher pitch. If the
frequency of vibration is lower, we say that the sound has a lower pitch. For
example, a drum vibrates with a low frequency. Therefore, it produces a low pitched
sound. On the other hand, a whistle has a high frequency and therefore, produces a
sound of higher pitch. A bird makes a high-pitched sound whereas a lion makes a
low-pitched roar. However, the roar of a lion is very loud while the sound of the bird
is quite feeble.

Audible and Inaudible Sounds

We need a vibrating body for the production of sound. Sounds of frequencies less
than about 20 vibrations per second (20 Hz) cannot be detected by the human ear.
Such sounds are called inaudible. On the higher side, sounds of frequencies higher
than about 20,000 vibrations per second (20 kHz) are also not audible to the human
ear. Thus, for human ear, the range of audible frequencies is roughly from 20 to
20,000 Hz.

Some animals can hear sounds of frequencies higher than 20,000 Hz. Dogs have this
ability. The police use high frequency whistles which dogs can hear but humans

Noise and Music

We hear different types of sounds around us. Some sounds are pleasant to the ear,
whereas some are not.

Do we enjoy the sounds produced by horns of buses and trucks? Such unpleasant
sounds are called noise. In a classroom, if all the students speak together, it is
unpleasant and called noise.

On the other hand we enjoy sounds from musical instruments. Musical sound is
one which is pleasing to the ear. Sound produced by a harmonium is a musical
sound. The string of a sitar also gives out a musical sound.

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is unwanted human-created sound that disrupts the environment.

The dominant form of noise pollution is from transportation sources, principally
motor vehicles, referred to as environmental noise. ©2009 send your queries to

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The overarching cause of most noise worldwide is generated by transportation

systems, principally motor vehicle noise, but also including aircraft noise and rail
noise. Hybrid vehicles for road use are the first widely sold automobiles in 100 years
to achieve significant noise source reduction. Poor urban planning may also give rise
to noise pollution, since juxtaposition of industrial to residential land uses, for
example, often results in adverse consequences for the residential acoustic

Besides transportation noise, other prominent sources are office equipment, factory
machinery, appliances, power tools, lighting hum and audio entertainment systems.
With the popularity of digital audio player devices, individuals in a noisy area might
increase the volume in order to drown out ambient sounds. Construction equipment
also produces noise pollution.

Measures to Limit Noise Pollution

To control noise, we must control the sources of noise. For this, silencing devices
must be installed in air craft engines, transport vehicles, industrial machines and
home appliances. The noisy operations must be conducted away from any residential
area. Noise producing industries should be set up away from such areas. Use of
automobile horns should be minimised. TV and music systems should be run at low
volumes. Trees must be planted along the roads and around buildings to cut down on
the sounds reaching the residents, thus reducing the harmful effects of noise
pollution. ©2009 send your queries to