Ohms Acousticauditory

Ohm's law of hearing. The German physicist Georg Simon Ohm (1787-1854) formulated this principle in 1843, which states that a complex tone is analyzed by the perceiver into its frequency components; in this way, for example, when one listens to an orchestra, the separate instruments may be distinguished even though the ears receive only a single complex sound wave. In addition to the ability to objectively break down a complex sound into sine-wave components by means of a mathematical procedure (known as a Fourier analysis), the ear is able to carry out this analysis as well. The ear can carry out an analysis of complex tones into simpler components because of the way structures inside the ear vibrate in response to different frequencies and because individual neurons are tuned to respond to a narrow range of frequencies. Such an analysis takes place early in the auditory system and - then at higher levels in the system - neural information about these frequency components is combined to create one's perception of sound. Although this analysis is not normally part of one's awareness, with training a hearer can learn to perceive individual harmonics (i.e., an overtone or "partial," the frequency of which is a multiple of the fundamental tone or sine wave with the lowest frequency) in a complex sound. Ohm's acoustic law is a theoretical statement about the perceiver/hearer and is differentiated from a Fourier analysis, which is a theoretical statement about the physical stimulus. The word acoustic in Ohm's acoustic law (which was added to distinguish it from Ohm's electrical law of 1827, the latter stating that I = E/R, where I is current in amperes, E is volts, and R is resistance) may be an unfortunate choice because it confuses the issue: it may have been better to call the acoustic principle here Ohm's auditory law. See also AUDITION/HEARING, THEORIES OF; FOURIER'S LAW/SERIES/ANALYSIS. REFERENCES

Ohm, G. S. (1827). Die galvanische kette mathematisch bearbeitet. Berlin: Juncker.

Annalen der Physik und Chemie, 135, 497-565.


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