By Brian Urban
A lot of people may not realize just how amazing their ears really are. They work to pick up all the sounds within your environment and then turn the sounds into a form of information that your brain is able to comprehend. One of the most astounding things about the transformation is that it is entirely mechanical. Your individual sense of smell, vision and taste all occur with a chemical reaction, but your sense of hearing works entirely through physical movements.
In order to understand how your ears are able to hear sounds, you need to be able to understand what sound is beforehand. Whenever an object vibrates within matter it produces a sound. It could be a solid, a liquid or a gas. However, the majority of the time, we are able to hear the sounds that are traveling throughout the air. As something vibrates within the atmosphere, it moves the particles of air around it. It is those air particles that move all the surrounding air particles, which in turn results in the vibrations making their way through the air.
In an attempt to look at how this process works, first think about how a simple vibration works. If you were to hit a bell, the metal would vibrate by flexing in and out. Whenever it flexes on one of the sides it ends up pushing all the surrounding air particles on the one side. All of those particles will then collide with the particles that are already in front of them, which collide with all the particles that are in front of them, and the chain reaction continues creating compression.
Once the bell has flexed away, it will create a pull on all the particles around it. This results in a drop in pressure, which creates a pull in more of the particles around the area, creating yet another drop in pressure, which results in the particles being pulled farther out. The whole process is known as rarefaction.
It is in this way that vibrating objects are able to send waves of fluctuating pressure throughout the atmosphere. We are able to hear multiple types of sounds from varying objects due to the variations of the frequencies for the sound waves. Higher frequency waves mean that there is a larger amount of fluctuation in the air pressure and it is able to switch back and forth at a quicker rate. This sound is interpreted as a higher pitch. However, when there are not as many fluctuations over a specified period of time the pitch comes across as lower. The amplitude is what determines the amount of air pressure and the level of sound.
Brian Urban, Au.D., a Board Certified Doctor of Audiology, is the owner of Advanced Hearing and Balance Center (formerly Communication Care Center) in Evanston, Illinois promise to work closely with you to discover where you are having the most difficulty communicating. Call today at (847) 453-3643 to make appointment or for up-to-date hearing aid informatio n visit Dr. Urban’s blog.