What Sounds Do You Hear Underwater?

What Sounds Do You Hear Underwater?


Have you ever wondered how sounds are perceived underwater? The way sound travels in water is quite different from how it travels in the air. In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating world of underwater sound and how it affects our perception of different noises.

How Sound Travels in Water

Sound is created by vibrations and needs a medium to travel through, such as air, water, or solids. In water, sound waves travel faster because there are more particles closely packed together. For example, sound travels about 4.3 times faster in freshwater at room temperature compared to in air at the same temperature.

Sound Intensity Underwater

One interesting aspect of underwater sound is that it maintains its energy for longer distances compared to sound in the air. This is because water particles can effectively carry the sound waves. In fact, in the ocean, the sound of a humpback whale can travel thousands of miles!

How Humans Perceive Underwater Sounds

While underwater sound waves may seem louder due to their faster pace and longer intensity, the human ear is actually not well-adapted to hear sound underwater. Our ears evolved to pick up sound in the air, not in water. When we are underwater, the vibrations bypass the eardrum and are transmitted through the water-filled tissues in our head. This can change our perception of sounds.

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Making Your Own Underwater Sounds

Curious to experience underwater sound firsthand? You can try an activity to explore how different sounds are perceived underwater. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bathtub or swimming pool
  • Water
  • Stainless steel utensils (such as spoons or tongs)
  • Plastic utensils
  • Small ball
  • Towel
  • Adult helper


  1. Ask your helper to click two stainless steel utensils together above the water. Listen closely to the sound.
  2. Next, have your helper click the utensils together underwater and compare the sound to the previous one.
  3. Submerge one ear in the water and ask your helper to click the utensils underwater. Notice any changes in the sound.
  4. Submerge your head completely or as much as you feel comfortable doing and listen while your helper clicks the utensils underwater. How does the sound differ from when only your ear was submerged?
  5. Repeat these steps using the plastic utensils and also try dropping a small ball into the water.


Q: Why does sound travel faster in water than in air?
A: Sound travels faster in water because the particles are densely packed, allowing vibrations to propagate more quickly.

Q: How does submerging your head affect your perception of underwater sound?
A: When you submerge your head, the sound may appear fuller or different because the water-filled tissues in your head transmit sound waves directly.

Q: Why is the human ear not as effective at picking up sound underwater?
A: Our ears evolved to detect sound in the air, and the structure of the ear is optimized for this purpose. Water-filled tissues in the head bypass the eardrum, leading to a different perception of sound underwater.

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Exploring the world of underwater sound reveals fascinating insights into how sound waves behave in water and how our perception of sound changes when we are submerged. By making your own underwater sounds, you can experience firsthand the differences between hearing in the air and underwater. So the next time you find yourself in a pool or by the ocean, take a moment to listen closely and discover the unique sounds of the underwater world.

This article is brought to you by iBlog, your go-to source for interesting and informative articles on various topics.

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