Saturday, June 3, 2023

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The Science of Acoustics 

Whether you’re trying to improve the acoustics of your at-home office with acoustic felt or you own a recording studio, understanding the science of acoustics maximizes the effect of your sound damping or proofing. In this article, we’re discussing how acoustics help your sound environment. 

To understand acoustics, we must first understand what sound is and how it operates within a given environment. What are its properties and how do we modify it to achieve the most productive, enjoyable environment possible? Read on to find out these answers and more. 

What Is Sound?

What happens when a truck honks its horn. How do the people in the surrounding area hear what happens? Sound waves are vibrations that travel through the air. The truck’s horn vibrates back and forth producing pressure waves and releasing them into the air. But why do some people hear certain frequencies of the horn while others can’t hear anything at all? What happens inside the listener’s ears dictates how we conceptualize and process sound.

The inner ear, a hollowed out structure that collects sound, and the cochlea are lined with hairs and these hairs move back and forth in response to the hairs. All of these movements create electrical signals and they send them down the auditory nerve and into the brain. When they reach the brain, they register as sound. 

But what makes you hear the pitch? Slow vibrations create low pitches and fast vibrations create high pitch. However, what’s beautiful about sound is that you can manipulate it to stimulate certain areas of your brain responsible for pleasure. Sounds aren’t just vibrations, then. They can produce emotional reactions. Acoustics is essentially the study of manipulating sounds to produce specific environments conducive to those emotions. 

What Is Acoustics?

Acoustics describes the science of sound and someone who studies acoustics is called an acoustician. There are numerous types of sound and sound affects our lives in all sorts of areas. We can use sound to communicate emotions with speech patterns and intonations or we can use it to produce music. 

The science of acoustics ensures concert halls, surround sound stereo, and hearing aids. Sound can be used to find oil and gas, study earthquakes and the deep ocean, and make sure unborn babies are healthy. The science of acoustics can advance production, control, transmission, reception, or the effects of sound on people. 

What Do Acousticians Do?

There are many types of acousticians. Here are some of examples: 

  • Acoustical engineers- can design transducers, such as microphones, earphones, and loudspeakers. 
  • Bioacoustician- bioacousician study the biological aspects of sound to determine how they apply to the animal kingdom. 
  • Audiologist- Audiologists diagnose hearing impairments. 
  • Hearing scientists- Hearing scientists can conduct research about hearing loss prevention.
  • Architectural acoustician- These professionals can design an opera house or another form of structure that promotes particular uses of acoustics.
  • Noise specialist- Works to reduce noise caused by airplanes and any other unwanted sources. 
  • Underwater acoustician- Underwater acousticians design sonar hardware and other instruments designed to explore the ocean floor.
  • Biomedical Acoustician- These professionals can develop medical equipment to destroy kidney stones and other medical conditions. 

What Is the Reflection of Sound?

A more practical approach to the science of acoustics is to discuss how they work within everyday environments. To understand the science behind everyday acoustics, we need to first discuss the reflection of sound. Reflection occurs when sound bounces off a surface. The angle that sound bounces off a surface is known as its angle of incidence. The angle of incidence depends on the shape of the wall and angle that the sound hits the wall. Sound making contact with a straight wall will differ from sound falling onto a curved wall. 

What Is Sound Absorption?

Instead of reflecting sound, some surfaces absorb it. When sound passes completely into a material, absorption occurs. The amount of absorption depends on the structure of the material and the frequency of the sound being absorbed. High frequencies are more easily absorbed due to their shorter wavelengths. 

What Is Sound Refraction?

When sound enters a material and the material changes its direction due to the density of the material, refraction occurs. 

What Is Diffraction?

Diffraction is defined as the ability of a sound wave to bend around a material. In nature, diffraction helps animals like elephants and whales communicate over long distances, even though the wave path may have a few obstructions. 

What Is the Absorption Coefficient of a Material?

The absorption coefficient is the absorption power of any material measured as a single number used to determine the effectiveness of sound absorbing materials for noise control. This ratio of energy absorbed by a material to the energy incident upon its surface absorbed by the material to the incident upon its surface. Softer materials have better absorption coefficient compared to hard surfaces. 

The absorption coefficient is represented by the Greek letter Alpha. When the absorption coefficient is equal to one, the sound is absorbed vs. when the absorption coefficient equals zero, it equals zero. The ratio of sound that is absorbed and the portion that gets reflected back is understood as the absorption coefficient. It is a figure between 0 and 1. 

Bottom Line 

Whether you are interested in sound absorption or sound dampening tiles, it’s important to understand the science of sound and the science of acoustics. Acoustics allows us to create numerous applications for the world. From exploring the ocean floor to improving hearing devices and providing millions with an unforgettable listening experience, acoustics is what does it all. Acousticians are focused on all of these applications and they are changing the world with various instruments, technologies, and concepts.

There are a few different types of acousticians and they have areas of expertise. These professionals use the properties of sound and the science of acoustics is what allows them to conduct their work with precision. Sound is an extraordinary physical occurrence and it is responsible for both enjoyment and annoyance. Additionally, it helps us understand the physical world around us and acoustics plays a large role in that understanding. 

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