Ears are the organ of hearing and balance in vertebrates. The human ear consists of three parts, the external ear, the middle ear and the internal ear. Each of these plays a role in the functioning of our ears. The external ear collects sound pulsations while the middle ear has a tympanic membrane in which pulsations reverberate off. The internal ear is fluid filled and sustains stability that runs the tympanic pulsations to the auditory nerve, which conveys them as compulsions to the brain. The way in which humans hear is through vibrations through the air called sound waves. Sound moves through the ear canal and triggers the eardrum to pulsate, this is how we hear sounds. Within our ears we have two types of hairs called vellus and tragi, this ear hair is absolutely normal. Vellus hair is the hair that grows in children’s ears to assist the body in adjusting temperature, this is almost like a coat of peach fuzz within our ears. This category of ear hair is extremely hard to see and is almost completely invisible. The fuller and darker hairs in our ears are tragi hairs. These are terminal hairs and they typically deliver protection, these hairs commence growth in your exterior ear canal. A defensive barricade is produced when the terminal ear hair and the body’s natural ear wax work together. This blocks microorganisms, bacteria and debris from reaching the inside of your inner ear and triggering possible harm. These tiny hairs within our ears also help us to hear, they gather sound waves and modify them into the nerve indications that the brain understands as sound. Harm to these hairs can prompt hearing impairment.
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To determine how our hearing changes throughout our lifespan and observe how this ranges from various different age groups.
As each age group differs the eldest of our age groups won’t be able to hear as high and low frequencies as well as our younger age groups.
Independent Variable: The sound frequency/tones of each sound clip.
Dependent Variable: If each specific age group can hear each sound frequency that is being played.
Controlled Variable: The laptop that the frequencies are being played from, the set of earphones, the volume setting (5) and the sound files.
Uncontrolled Variable: The background noises.
Reason for avoiding
How it is avoided
If the volume of our different sound frequencies is too high the person we are testing might experience pain or discomfort within their ears.
This can be avoided by setting the volume to an exact setting and making this not too loud or quiet. We picked a volume of 5 consistently as this would show accurate results and wasn’t too loud or too quiet for our differing age groups.
Scaring the participant
If the participant is unaware when the sound is being played they may become shocked when they hear the noise, this could cause the person to become scared/shocked.
This can be avoided by warning the participant exactly when the noise is going to be played by conducting a countdown from 3. This won’t leave the participant in shock and will allow for our results to be more accurate as the participant will be looking out for the sound.
1. Gather all sources of apparatus.
2. Plug the noise-cancelling headphones into the laptop and set the volume to five for safety purposes and to achieve accurate results.
3. Organise this equipment for quick access, on one tab open up a table to document the results of whether or not the person can hear the frequency and on another have the sound files ready to play.
4. Begin testing your first age group of an 8-year-old, play the first sound frequency of 20Hz and record whether or not they can hear this. Play the next 8 sound frequencies in chronological order and record if they are able to hear these sounds.
5. Repeat step 4 with the remaining 5 age groups of a 15-year-old, 18-year-old, 21-year-old, 40-year-old and 60-year-old.
The graph above shows which age groups are accountable to hear the 9 different sound frequencies. At the bottom of the graph the key shows what colour correlates to each age group, for example the colour orange represents a 15-year-old. The x-axis shows the different sound frequencies with the different age groups that could hear that specific sound frequency. For example, only the 8-year-old and the 15-year-old were able to hear 20hz. The y-axis shows the hearing ability (100% meaning that the participant can hear the sound). If a certain sound frequency doesn’t have a certain colour it means that specific age group wasn’t able to hear that sound frequency at all.
Qualitative Results (Observations):
From the data taken I found that the 8-year-old that was tested had an extremely good sense of hearing and could pick up each of the 9 sound frequencies being played, they recognised the sound quickly without the sound file being played more than once.
From the data taken I have found that the 15-year-old much like the 8-year-old was able to efficiently hear the 9 different sound frequencies being played. They recognised the sound quickly and didn’t require the sound file to be played more than once.
From the data taken the 18-year-old was able to hear most of the sound frequencies but wasn’t able to recognise the first and last sound frequency. They were able to pick up the 7 sound frequencies extremely quickly but the first and last ones had to be played more than once to which they still were unable to hear it.
From the data taken the 21-year-old was very similar to the 18-year-old as they heard 7 different sound frequencies except for the first and last ones. Unlike the 18-year-old they needed the second sound frequency of 50Hz replayed to which they were able to pick up the sound being played.
From the data taken the 40-year-old was able to hear all of the sound frequencies except for the first and last ones, they required the 50hz and the 15000hz sound frequencies to be replayed to which they were able to hear them to a good enough extent.
From the data recorded the 60-year-olds hearing was the worst of them all they were unable to hear the first two sound frequencies and the last two sound frequencies. They asked to have these specific ones replayed but were further unable to hear these sound frequencies.
After conducting our experiment and achieving our results new information was found. We conducted an experiment to determine how our hearing changes throughout our lifespan and observe how this ranges from various different age groups. We tested 6 different age groups with 9 different sound frequencies to determine who could hear what, we then researched the link between age and how our hearing is affected throughout this time. We found that as a person ages their hearing is affected by many different aspects. From the graph above you can see that the older a person got the fewer sound frequencies, they were able to hear. An 8-year-old and a 15-year-old were able to hear all 9 differentiating sound frequencies, an 18-year-old, 21-year-old and a 40-year-old were able to identify all sound frequencies except the first and last one. Finally, the 60-year-old was unable to hear the first and last two sound frequencies within this experiment. Everyone who was tested was able to hear sounds from 100hz-1000hz and we found that the older someone got their ability in hearing all sounds decreased significantly.
As we age and go through different stages of our lives our hearing changes, many aspects contribute to this but hearing loss doesn’t always occur due to our age. Hearing loss that correlates back to our age will typically occur in both ears due to the alterations in the inner ear as we age. It can also be caused by alterations in the middle ear, or from complicated alterations along the nerve routes from the ear to the brain. Other reasons such as long-term contact with noise can be the reason for hearing loss. For example, as we age many of us go out to parties when we reach our teenage years, at many of these party’s loud music is played for long amounts of time. Noise-induced hearing loss can be the result of long-term contact with sounds that are either exceedingly loud or sounds that are played for long amounts of time. Within our ears we have sensory hair cells which allow us to hear, the contact with the noise mentioned above can cause extreme impairment to these sensory hair cells. These hair cells don’t grow back after being impaired and this causes our hearing capability to decrease. Other aspects of life can add to hearing loss such as illnesses that are frequently present in older people such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Our hearing can also be affected by different types of prescriptions that are poisonous to the sensory cells in our ears, an example of this could be certain chemotherapy treatments. Typically, a mixture of noise-induced hearing loss and age-related hearing loss is responsible for hearing loss in older people. As younger children haven’t been exposed to as much loud music, parties etc. their experiences with hearing different frequencies will differentiate as their life experiences are much different to say an adult.
We made a few mistakes throughout this experiment that could have impacted our final results. One of which was the environment the tests where done in, we tested our different sound frequencies on our 6-age-groups in very different environments. Some were done in the school environment whilst others were done at home, these are two very different areas which could cause inaccuracy in our final results. The school environment is generally quite noisy and is never completely dead silent whereas at home I was able to control the loudness of the house and allow for an extremely silent environment. If this experiment was to be conducted again I would suggest conducting all tests within an environment where noise can be controlled such as at home.
Another error that could’ve impacted our results was not conducting the experiments on enough participants. We conducted tests on an 8-year-old, 15-year-old, 18-year-old, 21-year-old, 40-year-old and a 60-year-old meaning that we got one perspective from 6 different ages. If we were to conduct the experiment again I would attempt to test more than one person from these age groups to allow for more accurate results overall. This would be difficult to do as we had 9 different sound frequencies which would make testing more than one person extremely confusing and difficult to comprehend as a graph/table of data.
The aim of this experiment was to determine how our hearing changes throughout our lifespan and observe how this ranges from various different age groups. This aim was met as we observed how each age group heard different sound frequencies and conducted research to discover why our results occurred. We achieved our final result of understanding why hearing loss occurs as people age. The aim was clear and guided us into asking more specific questions which we could further research and answer in my discussion. My hypothesis was “As each age group differs the eldest of our age groups won’t be able to hear as high and low frequencies as well as our younger age groups.” This hypothesis was proven correct as our older age groups found the low and high sound frequencies difficult to hear and our younger age groups found these sounds easier to identify. After writing the discussion which answered all my guided questions I found the reason behind why our hearing is gradually lost throughout our older years. The final outcome of our experiment was us identifying that as we age our hearing is gradually lost and that people of a younger age are more prone to hearing different sound frequencies. This is due to many factors such as the different experiences we have been exposed to in our lives, for example, loud music, parties etc.
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