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Fundamentals of Sound with Applications to Speech and Hearing 

RATING: (4 of 5 ears)
AUTHORS: William J. Mullin, William J. Gerace, Jose P. Mestre, and Shelley L. Velleman
PUBLISHER: Allyn and Bacon
ISBN: 0-205-37087-X
COST: US$51.00 (softcover)

REVIEWER: Albert R. De Chicchis, PhD, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Georgia

SYNOPSIS: Fundamentals of Sound with Applications to Speech and Hearing is an outgrowth of a course developed in the Physics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It is designed to introduce the basic physics of sound to undergraduate students majoring in areas outside of the physical sciences and who have an interest in speech and hearing. Three of the book's authors are in the Physics Department and the fourth (SLV) is in the Dept. of Communication Disorders. The textbook is divided into twelve chapters and has two appendices. A series of questions/exercises appear at the end of each chapter. The text has an accompanying website containing animations of wave motion to help the reader grasp some of the more difficult concepts. The website also includes a tutorial with multiple choice questions concerning the concepts addressed in the text and answers to key questions scattered throughout each chapter in the book.

REVIEW: Chapter 1 discusses the physical concepts of wave motion. This chapter introduces the student to the different types of waves and describes wave propagation and wave velocity. It defines the basic properties of sinusoidal waves (frequency, amplitude, period, cycle, wavelength) and their relationship to each other, explains how the sine and simple harmonic motion are related, and discusses the effects that medium properties (elasticity, mass, density) have on sound transmission. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion on wave reflections and wave interference. Standing waves as they relate to strings and columns of air are discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 respectively. Numerous figures are included throughout the chapters illustrating how boundary conditions determine the standing wave patterns that can occur, and formulas used to determine fundamental frequency and harmonics are provided. The concept of resonance and factors that influence resonating objects are discussed briefly in Chapter 4. Some discussion of the mass reactance and stiffness reactance, which are not included in the chapter, may have contributed to a more complete understanding of this topic.

Chapter 5 reviews the concept of wave fronts and their effects on energy distribution. It also includes a discussion on constructive and destructive interference, and diffraction of waves. Periodic and non-periodic complex waves are described in Chapter 6. This chapter also introduces the student to the phenomenon of beats and the concept of sound quality. Chapter 7 focuses on wave analysis. It begins with an explanation of frequency spectrum, discusses the principle underlying Fourier's theorem as it applies to standing and traveling waves, and describes the various types of filters. Chapter 8 is dedicated to speech production and reviews the speech organs, vocal tract, vocal fold vibration and the Bernoulli Effect. It also includes a discussion on the acoustic properties of the vocal tract, formant frequencies, and concludes with an explanation of spectrographs, for which several examples obtained with male and female speakers are shown.

Chapter 9 focuses on the manner in which speech sounds are produced and the specific acoustic characteristics of speech. It provides a rather detailed explanation regarding the acoustic characteristics of pure vowels and diphthongs, semi-vowels and consonants. Many examples of spectrograms appear throughout the chapter to illustrate these characteristics, and the chapter concludes with a brief discussion on coarticulation. The concepts of work and energy are discussed in Chapter 10. Chapter 11 addresses sound perception of intensity. It includes a discussion of decibels, logarithms, and explains the difference between intensity level and loudness level. The final chapter in the text discusses sound transmission through the parts of the ear and the energy conversions that take place in the process. It highlights the major anatomical structures associated with each part of the ear and briefly addresses theories of hearing.

CRITIQUE: Undergraduate students studying in the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders should find Fundamentals of Sound with Application to Speech and Hearing Science a useful addition to their bookshelf. It takes complex material related to the physics of sound and human communication and presents it in a manner that is easily understood. The authors do a nice job of verbally explaining the mathematical concepts that are essential for complete comprehension of the topic, although the math incorporated does not exceed the level of basic algebra. Students should find the animations and tutorials presented on the website particularly appealing as they serve to clarify many of the figures and concepts in the book.