Hearing Blog

Noises Can Affect the Body and Mind

January 15, 2020

We live in a noisy world that refuses to remain quiet. Be it the dead of night or the wee hours of the morning, we are always subjected to sounds. Be it the ticking of the clock on our bedside table, the honking of a distant car, or the chirping of a bird near our windowsill, we cannot switch off the sounds of the world we live in. Some of these sounds can result in negative emotional responses from within us, which is not only bad for our hearing but also for our mental health.

The Journal of Neuroscience recently published a report which included 10 of the most dreadful sounds that human beings encounter. These sounds produce an automatic negative emotional response in human beings just by reading them! Nails on a chalkboard; a baby wailing; car tires skidding; a woman shrieking. All of these sounds get instinctively aversive reactions deep within us. This suggests that some sounds are not only bad for your hearing; they are equally harmful to your overall wellbeing.

Noise can result in psychological and physical problems. It can result in headaches, hypertension, sleep disturbances, irritability, and fatigue. This can lead to negative effects on our physical health as well as our mental stability.

Most people report that loud sounds are more disturbing than softer ones. In addition to the volume, the higher frequency levels of sound (ranging between 2,000-5,000Hz) were found to be more unpleasant than lower-frequency ones. Hearing certain levels of sounds stimulates various parts of the brain. For example, the amygdala tends to regulate human emotional reactions based on the sounds we hear.

There are certain songs we associate with various phases or memories of our life. Some songs make us happy, while others remind us of heartbreak. Some songs make us want to dance while others make us cringe in our seats. This is the power of music; it has the ability to regulate emotions and even alter our mood. The strange part about music is that it is entirely subjective. One melody may sound harmonious to you but to someone else it may sound just like noise. Those who like classical music may turn their nose up at rock music, and vice versa.

Sounds have a physical effect on our body. They actually increase blood pressure and hormones such as cortisol. Our blood sugar may also decrease due to some sounds, while our heartbeat may become irregular in response to certain noises. This indicates that our bodies interact with the sounds around us. We cannot stop the noises from our world from entering our rooms and even our ears for that matter. What we can do, however, is limit what types of sounds enter our ear canal. We can do this by either blocking out sounds entirely by wearing earplugs, or by wearing noise-cancelling headphones so that we can choose the music we wish to listen to, while blocking out external noise. Most of all, it is important to learn to appreciate the most precious and rare sound of all; the sound of silence!