The Four Ways Sound Affects Us
A couple of months ago while browsing the Internet; I came across a video clip about the way that sound affects us. I have always found the influence of sound very interesting and this speaker delivered such a great speech that I immediately thought of sharing this with everyone.
The speaker’s name is Julian Treasure. He is the chair of Sound Agency, a firm that advises international businesses on how to use sound to promote and improve their businesses. He is also the author of the book Sound Business and has a blog by the same name.
This article is a summation of the information relayed in the video clip I mentioned above.
Most of the sound around us is accidental and not something we can control. Much of it is also unpleasant and because we cannot always remove the sound, we try to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist. This suppression of sound has meant that our relationship with sound has become largely unconscious. Even though we suppress the sounds, it still influences our lives in four major ways.
The first influence that sound has on us is physiological. A loud alarm clock will give your body a shot of cortisol, inducing a fight or flight instinct. Sounds are constantly affecting not only hormone secretions but also your breathing, heart rate and brainwaves. The opposite of the alarm clock example is also true. A relaxing surf sound of about 12 cycles per minute will soothe most people. Interestingly, 12 cycles per minute is about the same frequency of the breathing of a sleeping human. We also associate these sounds with being at rest, being stress-free and on holiday.
The second way that sound influences us is psychological. Music is the most powerful form of sound that can affect our emotional state. Nature sounds will do the same thing. Birdsong is a sound that most people find reassuring. The reason for that dates back thousands of years to when hearing birdsong meant that all was safe in the forest. And when they stop, you should start getting worried.
Thirdly, sound influences us cognitively. You cannot understand two people talking at the same time. Our bandwidth for processing auditory input is very small. Office noise, as found in an open-plan office, is extremely damaging for productivity. It reduces productivity by two thirds, making you a third as productive as you would have been in a quiet space. If you have no choice but to work in this noise, play some soothing birdsong over your headphones and triple your productivity.
The last way in which sound affects us is behaviourally. A good example is a teenager driving around in a car with techno music blasting through the stereo. He will definitely not be driving the speed limit. In its simplest form, we move away from unpleasant sounds and towards pleasant sounds. Imagine for yourself having to listen to a jackhammer for a whole day without end. It is extremely damaging to your health. We have all also walked out of a store or restaurant because the music or sound was unbearable for more than a few minutes.
Now that you have become aware of how sound influences you, you can start to take control of the sound around you. It is good for your health and productivity. Julian recommends listening to birdsong for at least 5 minutes a day, but there is no maximum dose. This will counteract most of the bad effects that sound has had on you during the day.
Keep an eye out for two more articles on how to improve your sound health and 5 ways to listen better.