Reflection of Sound

Sound wave also gets reflected as light waves do. Bouncing back of sound wave from the surface of solid or liquid is called reflection of sound.

Reflection of sound follows the Laws of Reflection as light wave does. This means the angle of incident wave and reflected wave to the normal are equal.

For reflection of sound a polished or rough and big obstacle is necessary.

Use of Reflection of Sound:

Reflection of sound is used in many devices. For example; megaphone, loudspeaker, bulb horn, stethoscope, hearing aid, sound board etc.

Loudspeaker, Megaphone, bulb horn:

Loudspeaker, Megaphone and bulb horn are devices used to send the sound in desired direction without spreading the sound all around. These devices act on the laws of reflection of sound wave.

In such devices, a funnel like cone shaped tube is used. Sound is introduced at the narrower end of tube and let to come out from wider end. Because of successive reflections, the amplitude of sound is added up which makes the sound louder. The name ‘Loudspeaker’ is given as it is used to make the sound louder.


Stethoscope is used to hear the sounds of internal organs of a patient; for diagnostic purposes. It works on the laws of reflection of sound.

Reflection of sound in stethoscope

In stethoscope, sound is received by chest piece and sent to the earpieces by multiple reflecting through a long tube. Doctors diagnose the condition of an organ of the human body by hearing the sound using the stethoscope. Stethoscope has become the symbol of the medical profession since its invention.


Sound board is used to send the sound towards audience in big hall or auditorium. This works on the basis of laws of reflection of sound waves.

Sound board is a big concave board and is set in such a fashion behind the stage that speaker is at the focus. Sound coming from speaker falls over sound board and gets reflected towards the audience. As a result, the audience sitting in the hall even at far distance from the speaker can clearly hear what the speaker is saying.

Additionally, the ceiling of the auditorium is also made curved so that it also acts like sound board. The curved surface of the ceiling reflects the sound waves and facilitates better hearing.

reflection of sound from sound board


The sound which we hear after reflection is called echo or echo of sound. One can hear the echo by shouting loudly in a big hall. After shouting loudly, the same sound reaches the ears after reflecting from the surface of the wall. Echo of sound can be heard by producing sound at place surrounded by hills or big buildings.

Thus, repetition of sound because of multiple reflection of sound wave is called echo.

Condition necessary for creation of echo:

One does not experience any echo sound in a small room. This does not mean that sound does not get reflected in a small room, but necessary conditions for production of echo are not present.

Any sound persists on one’s brain upto 0.1 second of time. So echo can only be heard if the same sound comes to one’s ear after a lapse of 0.1 second.

Thus, reflection of sound must reach to the brain after a lapse of 0.1 second.


Since, sound covers 344 m in air in 1 second.

Thus, in 0.1 second sound would cover a distance of 344 m x 0.1 = 34.4 m

Thus, to hear an echo sound the reflecting surface must be at a distance of 17.2 m, so that sound has to cover a distance which is more than 17.2 m x 2 = 34.4 m; before reaching the ears.

So, if reflecting surface is at a distance of more than 17.2 m, the sound would reach to our brain after 0.1 second and we would be able to hear the echo of sound.

Thus, there are two conditions to experience the echo of sound.

Multiple Echo:

You may have heard the echo of your yahoo in hilly areas. This happens because of multiple reflection of sound wave and is often called multiple echoes.

The rolling sound of thunder is heard because of the multiple reflections of thunder sound or multiple echoes. The sound of thunder comes to us many times because of reflections from clouds and earth surface.

Use of multiple reflection of sound:

For above mentioned purposes, sound of high frequency is produced so that reflections can be received from various surfaces. The time taken for reception of reflected sound waves is analyzed by a computer to detect the problem.


Persistence of sound wave for a long time because of multiple reflections is called reverberation. Usually, this happens in big halls. Sound becomes too blurred and distorted to be heard in big concert halls because of reverberation. This can often lead to annoyance.

To overcome this problem, sound absorbent materials, such as curtains, plant fibre, compressed fireboard, carpets, etc. are used in the auditorium.

These materials absorb undesired reflected sound and reduce reverberation.

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