New
New
Year 10
Edexcel
Higher

Human hearing

I can describe how the human ear detects sound and explain why there are limits to human hearing.

New
New
Year 10
Edexcel
Higher

Human hearing

I can describe how the human ear detects sound and explain why there are limits to human hearing.

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Lesson details

Key learning points

  1. Human hearing involves the transmission of sound waves through different parts of the ear.
  2. Wave transmission to a new medium can be limited by the wave amplitude or the wave frequency.
  3. The range of human hearing is 20 Hz to 20 000 Hz. Frequencies above and below this are called ultrasound and infrasound.
  4. The highest frequency you can hear reduces with age as cells of the cochlea and auditory nerve become damaged over time.

Common misconception

Sound waves somehow “are” the sounds you hear.

The sensation of hearing sound (what you hear) is a different thing to what a sound wave is (longitudinal oscillations of particles).

Keywords

  • Transmit - Waves are transmitted when they pass across a boundary from one material (medium) into another.

  • Ear drum - The eardrum is a membrane within the ear that is caused to vibrate by incoming sound waves.

  • Cochlea - The cochlea is a spiral-shaped structure within the ear that creates electrical signals when set vibrating.

  • Infrasound - Sound waves of frequency below 20 Hz usually cannot be heard by humans, so are called infrasound.

  • Ultrasound - Sound waves of frequency above 20 000 Hz usually cannot be heard by humans, so are called ultrasound.

Use a signal generator connected to a loudspeaker and oscilloscope to demo sound waves. You can also play sound of increasing frequency to determine the highest frequencies that students in your class can hear. There are videos online for this too.
Teacher tip

Licence

This content is © Oak National Academy Limited (2024), licensed on Open Government Licence version 3.0 except where otherwise stated. See Oak's terms & conditions (Collection 2).

Video

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6 Questions

Q1.
Sound and ultrasound are which type of wave?
transverse waves
Correct answer: longitudinal waves
electromagnetic waves
Q2.
Match each property of sound to the correct feature of sound waves.
Correct Answer:volume (how loud/quiet),this is set by the amplitude of the sound wave

this is set by the amplitude of the sound wave

Correct Answer:pitch (how high/low),this is set by the frequency of the sound wave

this is set by the frequency of the sound wave

Correct Answer:timbre (quality of the sound),this is set by the shape of the sound wave

this is set by the shape of the sound wave

Q3.
Identify the true statements about the human ear.
All parts of human ears are outside of the head.
Correct answer: Human ears extend inside the head.
The human ear is a uniform structure/tissue, without smaller parts.
Correct answer: The human ear is made up of several smaller parts.
Q4.
Which of the following is not found within a human ear?
ear drum
ear canal
Correct answer: ear trumpet
bone
Q5.
Which of these animals can't detect ultrasound?
bats
Correct answer: humans
dogs
dolphins
Q6.
Ultrasound waves always have a very ...
Correct answer: high frequency
long wavelength
large amplitude

6 Questions

Q1.
Which options correctly describe what ultrasound is?
sound of a very high volume
Correct answer: sound that is too high pitch to hear
sound that can't be heard because the amplitude is too low
Correct answer: sound that can't be heard because the frequency is too high
sound that can't be heard because the wavelength is too long
Q2.
Longitudinal waves that are too low frequency for humans to hear are called waves.
Correct Answer: infrasound, infra sound, infra-sound
Q3.
Which is the correct range of frequencies that humans can hear?
2 - 2000 Hz
2 - 20 000 Hz
Correct answer: 20 - 20 000 Hz
20 - 200 000 Hz
Q4.
Identify the false statement about wave transmission and human hearing.
Human hearing involves the transmission of waves through different media.
Successful transmission of waves can depend on wave amplitude and frequency.
Correct answer: Only very specific frequencies can be transmitted successfully through the ear.
Q5.
Starting with the incoming sound, sort the stages of hearing into the correct order.
1 - The pinna funnels incoming sound into the ear canal.
2 - Oscillating air particles set the ear drum oscillating.
3 - The oscillations are transmitted to the ossicles (three tiny bones).
4 - The oscillations are transmitted to the cochlea.
5 - The cells of the cochlea create electrical signals.
6 - Electrical signals are carried by the auditory nerve to the brain.
Q6.
Which is the correct reason why the transmission of high frequency sound waves is limited?
at high frequency, air particles won't exert enough force on a solid
Correct answer: at high frequency, air particles will not exert force on a solid for enough time
at high frequency, particles of a solid may be forced to oscillate too far