Scientists Say: Ultrasound | Science News for Students

Scientists Say: Ultrasound

This word is more than a technology; it’s sound in a very high frequency
May 28, 2018 — 6:30 am EST

This is an ultrasound image from inside a pregnant woman’s uterus. If you look carefully, there’s not one baby in there, but two! This woman was pregnant with twins.


Ultrasound (noun, “UHL-tra-sound”)  

Sound travels from one place to the next in waves. The frequency of the wave determines what you hear. But once that frequency is too high for a person to hear, it’s a special type of sound: ultrasound.

It is more common, though, to see the term “ultrasound” in medicine. When a doctor wants to see what’s going on inside a patient, one option is ultrasound. She can use a device that will send these ultra-high frequency sound waves into the patient’s body. The sound waves bounce off whatever is inside. The machine reads the echoes of those waves as they come out of the body. Then it uses those echoes to create an image of anything inside, such as internal organs, a tumor or a baby.

In a sentence

Bats use ultrasound to echolocate when they are hunting. 

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Power Words

(more about Power Words)

bat     A type of winged mammal comprising more than 1,100 separate species — or one in every four known species of mammal.

frequency     The number of times a specified periodic phenomenon occurs within a specified time interval. (In physics) The number of wavelengths that occurs over a particular interval of time.

organ     (in biology) Various parts of an organism that perform one or more particular functions. For instance, an ovary is an organ that makes eggs, the brain is an organ that makes sense of nerve signals and a plant’s roots are organs that take in nutrients and moisture.

sound wave     A wave that transmits sound. Sound waves have alternating swaths of high and low pressure.

ultrasound     (adj. ultrasonic) Sounds at frequencies above the range that can be detected by the human ear. Also the name given to a medical procedure that uses ultrasound to “see” within the body.

wave     A disturbance or variation that travels through space and matter in a regular, oscillating fashion.