This resource is designed to accompany the Science for Families course delivered by NUSTEM or one of our partners. It’s a six-week parent and child course delivered in primary schools.
You’re welcome to use the resources for other purposes, but they might not make quite as much sense!
Congratulations, you made it to the Science for Families Sound page!
Let’s test your hearing. Well… not exactly test. A proper hearing test would need very carefully controlled conditions, whereas you’ve got the speakers on your laptop or mobile phone or whatever. But there is a neat little comparison we can make. You’ll need:
- Your volume turned up on your computer or phone. Not too high, though – especially if you’re wearing headphones.
- Yourself. Or at least, your ears. It’s usually simplest to leave them attached.
- Somebody older than you. The older the better. Again, you only really need their ears, but…
Below, we have several different sounds. They’re simple tones at different frequencies, which means some are higher-pitched than others. Start by playing this first tone:
This tone is a frequency of 1000 Hz. That means it’s vibrating your speakers 1000 times every second. You and your adult will very likely both be able to hear this. If you can’t, it’s most likely that your computer isn’t making any sounds. Try talking to each other to check that you haven’t turned your ears off, then see if you can fix your computer speakers.
Now try the following tones one at a time, and see if you can both hear them all. They start much higher-pitched than the first tone, and go up from there. Be warned that none of them sound very pleasant!
Turn your speakers down! These sounds are very high-pitched, and could sound a bit painful.
It’s quite likely that, at some point, one or both of you stopped being able to hear the sounds. This could be simply because your computer speakers can’t play really high-pitched sounds, or that they sort-of can but they’re very quiet.
But it’s also the case that your adult’s ears have been around longer than yours have. They’re likely are a little bit worn out, and therefore aren’t as good at picking up very high frequency noises. Your ears are younger and probbaly still able to pick up those super high frequencies. If you want to experiment a bit further, try the tones on someone even older.
…that doesn’t mean you have a hearing problem. Yes, the text above says that it’s probably your computer that’s messing up rather than your ears, but we figured you might actually read colourful and reassuring text like this.
More sound science
We hear sounds because of vibrations. If your alarm clock goes off in the morning, you hear it because the alarm vibrates the air, those vibrations reach your ear, then tiny hairs in your ear pick up the vibrations. Here’s a video with a lovely explanation of sound:
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