The Science Behind Sound

Sound is something we are in constant contact with every second of every day, whether we’re aware of it or not. Even while you sleep, your ears are still listening – your brain just has the good sense to ‘switch off’ and ignore any sounds it hears, in favour of rest. Here at Amplify, you know we’re all about sound. And in celebration of our favourite medium, here is everything you need to know about the science behind it.

Each of our five senses – smell, touch, taste, sight and sound – are a critical aspect of our ability to interact with our environment and ensure our survival. From humans all the way down to some of the smallest insects, sound allows us to send and receive signals, communicate with our environment and, essentially, keep us alive. Sound creates music, conversation, laughter – all the things we love about life. It can also create the things we hate. From the obnoxious notes of the vuvuzela to the irritatingly persistent buzz of a mosquito. Sound helps us ‘see’ in the dark by providing our brain with information about our environment, and give us insight into situations or things that are out of our sight. But what exactly is it?

Put simply, sound is the result of something vibrating. Put less simply, it is the emission of vibrational energy from an object. The high and low pressures from that vibration takes the form of a longitudinal wave which travels outwards from the object. The volume and pitch of the sound are dependent on the cause, as well as the amount of energy behind it. Longer soundwaves result in a deeper pitch. Shorter soundwaves give off a higher pitch, and the bigger the wave, the louder the sound. Consider a drum kit: banging a drum makes the skin vibrate. Causing the air around it to be both pushed and pulled by the movement. This vibration creates a ‘wave’ that moves out from the drum. It’s this wave that is picked up by our ears, creating what we interpret as sound: in this case, a drumbeat.

When it comes to our hearing, there are actually two different elements to sound: the physical process and the psychological process. Something physical occurs that generates the sound energy to begin with. Like someone shouting, a glass breaking or a dog barking. Which is in turn processed through psychological processes that begin once our ears pick up that sound, changing it into something that our brains can make sense of. Ears basically act as a funnel for all the different soundwaves we come across every day. As we move through life, our brains are able to collect a whole library full of various sounds that allow us to better familiarise ourselves with our surroundings.

Sound, just like our other senses, makes us feel things too. This is why listening to music can tug at our heartstrings, sometimes even taking our breath away. Sound can create a whole host of feelings in all of us, from sheer bliss and happiness to absolute terror (just think of the Jaws theme song!). And when you realise that sound is basically just an awesome assault of vibration and energy on our senses, it’s really no wonder that it can get such a reaction out of us.

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Author: Ronsley Vaz

Ronsley is the founder & chief day dreamer at AMPLIFY. He is an author, speaker & serial entrepreneur.

He has a Masters’ degree in Software Engineering and an MBA in Psychology and Leadership. He is known as the creator of We Are Podcast – the first Podcasting Conference in the Southern Hemisphere, and the host of The Bond Appetit Podcast and Should I Start a Podcast. He has an audience of over 3 million in 133 countries.

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