Come On, Hear the Noise...

Nicole Basham
September 30, 2009

For many preschoolers, noise is magnificent. The louder, the better. For more sensitive little ones, noise can be overwhelming.

But what exactly distinguishes noise from music?

Music is a collection of organized sounds. Rather than being random and jarring, music tends to have patterns. Similar to soothing nursery rhymes, music often repeats -- think of the chorus in your child's favorite song (that is, if you aren't already subconsciously humming it to yourself!).

During the course of a day, ask your preschooler if sounds you are hearing are music or noise. Set the timer for five minutes and collect anything in one room that makes a sound; then decide whether it makes noise or music. Play musical chairs (or pillows). Have an impromptu dance party.

OK, so now we know the difference between noise and music. How exactly do we hear?

The first part, of course, is easy. Our ears are the parts of our body which gather sounds, analyze them and send signals to our brain which tells us what we are hearing. What you might not remember from science class is that here are actually three parts of the ear: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

The outer ear is the part we recognize -- what everyone can see. Sound waves travel down the ear canal, which is part of the outer ear. Then they reach the eardrum, which is what it sounds like -- a thin piece of skin which is stretched tight, like a drum. The eardrum's job is to deliver sound waves from the middle ear to the inner ear. When sound waves reach the eardrum, they cause it to vibrate, which moves three of the tiniest and most delicate bones in your body, which are found in the middle ear.

Sound then enters a small tube in the inner ear called the cochlea which is filled with liquid. The sound waves cause microscopic hairs in the cells which line the cochlea to move, which then sends electrical signals to the brain. The brain then decodes these signals and tells us what we have heard.

Pretty amazing, when you really think about it!

From the Parents

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