If your life had a soundtrack, what would it be? We’re not just talking about the music you love, the songs that seem to encapsulate a particularly memorable time in your life, though these are certainly important. What about the other sounds that permeate, shape, and define your world and your life’s experience?
Would it be the peaceful sounds of wind in tree leaves and birds chirping, the restful sound of flowing water, or the joyful sounds of children’s laughter and energetic chatter? Or would it be the incessant rumble of traffic outside? Would it be the clickety-clack of keyboard keys? The shriek of industrial machinery? Perhaps you drown out the noise around you and create your own sound environment with your favorite music.
The fact is, most of us pay little attention to the myriad and unceasing ambient noises that fill our daily lives. That’s a pity because the sounds that surround us don’t just characterize our environment, but they also exert a profound impact on our overall quality of life.
It’s little wonder, then, that many of the world’s ancient religions perceive the universe and life as we know it to have originated not in physical matter but in sound. In Buddhism and Hinduism, everything that exists evolved from a single syllable: Om. Christianity and Judaism both teach that, in the beginning, was the Word.
Indeed, the belief in the life-giving and life-sustaining power of sound is perhaps as old as human civilization itself. Modern science is increasingly able to confirm what the ancients knew: that certain sounds possess tremendous power.
If you’re asked to identify the sounds that make you feel the happiest and most peaceful, the odds are that sounds derived from nature are going to populate your top ten list. Consider the rhythmic sound of ocean waves, the joyful tones of birdsong, the lulling sweep of the wind through the trees, and the soothing chips of summer crickets in the night.
Our world is teeming with the sounds of life, and it’s perhaps little wonder that our physiological and psychological selves are designed to respond to them. Indeed, there is abundant evidence that exposure to natural sound can produce significant physical and mental health benefits (1, 2, 3, 4).
The effects are so significant, in fact, that researchers have found that even simulated nature sounds can generate demonstrable improvements in cognitive functioning and overall mood. For example, in a study of the effect on university students of exposure to natural sounds via mobile phone application, Luc et al. (2021) found that daily use of the app substantially improved the subjects’ working memory, attention, and reaction times (5). The researchers also found that these students experienced an enhanced sense of well-being and optimism and a more positive affect overall (5).
Similarly, Thoma et al. (2018) found that exposure to water sounds can substantially decrease cortisol levels, even in conditions of acute stress (6). In their study, the researchers subjected women with a history of somatic complaints, who were otherwise healthy, to a stressful psychosocial task. The experimental group, which was made to complete the exercise after a period of listening to simulated water sounds, performed significantly better and exhibited a substantially decreased physiological stress response than the control group, which was not exposed to water sounds (6).
The benefits of nature sounds don’t end there, however. There is mounting evidence that the sounds of nature may act on both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems in highly beneficial ways, even when the subject is not actively listening. Studies suggest, for example, that patients undergoing surgery or other invasive procedures fared better during and after the procedure when they were exposed to natural sound (7, 8, 9, 10). These results were consistent across patient populations, with enhanced healing demonstrated by patients exposed to nature sounds under both full and partial sedation.
The Power to Soothe
As profound as the physical and mental health benefits of nature sounds may be, these are far from the only categories of sound that can restore and revitalize your well-being. Indeed, the evidence in support of the positive impact of listening to music is vast and growing (11, 12, 13). Studies have shown that listening to certain types of music can substantially improve cardiovascular health, boost immunity, increase exercise adherence, enhance quality of life, and improve overall mental health (11, 12, 13, 14). Likewise, in a study of patients undergoing orthopedic surgery with spinal anesthesia, Azi et al. (2021) found that those who were exposed to music during the surgical procedure required less sedation, felt less anxiety, and had a more positive experience in general than the control group (15).
Another recent and deeply exciting advancement in the effort to understand the mechanisms through which music aids health and healing is the discovery of so-called “human-auditory entrainment” (16).
This term refers to new insights in the field of neurobiology into the impact of auditory processing on bodily systems. More specifically, researchers have found that the auditory processing of musical rhythms can have a significant therapeutic effect on the human motor system, particularly for those with neurological and motor disorders. Studies suggest that music listening therapy may significantly improve gross and fine motor function in patients with movement disorders, including those with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy, and traumatic brain injury (l6).
With these new realizations, what would your soundtrack of choice be? We would like to hear from you, whether it's a specific song or particular sounds in nature, what helps you feel relaxed, calm, and at ease?
How FSorb Can Help
At FSorb, we specialize in providing innovative, eco-friendly sound mitigation solutions for commercial and public constructions. Our custom products include acoustic panels for walls and ceilings, as well as exterior solutions to facilitate noise reduction in outdoor spaces. Our products are ideal for a wide variety of purposes and environments, from industrial manufacturing workplaces to healthcare facilities to business offices.
If you are designing a space that would benefit from noise mitigation, we have the solutions you need. Our products can enable you to create quiet rooms where you or your clients can retreat to enjoy the healing benefits of music without ambient noise pollution infiltrating your space. Similarly, our exterior acoustic panels can be installed in urban greenspaces, private and public parks, corporate campuses, and residential backyards and patios to help quiet noise and unleash the sounds of nature.
Contact your local FSorb representative today to explore our product catalog and select the customized sound mitigation solutions you need for your next design project.
At FSorb, we are motivated by improving human health and do so by creating eco-friendly acoustic products. Our mission is to help designers build beautiful spaces that reduce excess ambient noise while calming the human nervous system. With over 25 years in the acoustic business we stand behind FSorb as a durable, environmentally friendly, and low-cost product. If you want an acoustic solution that is safe to human health at an affordable price, then we are your resource.
Franco, L. S., Shanahan, D. F., & Fuller, R. A. (2017). A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(8), 864. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080864
Buxton, R. T., Pearson, A. L., Allou, C., Fristrup, K., & Wittemyer, G. (2021). A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(14), e2013097118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2013097118
Ratcliffe E. (2021). Sound and Soundscape in Restorative Natural Environments: A Narrative Literature Review. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 570563. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.570563
Fisher, J. C., Irvine, K. N., Bicknell, J. E., Hayes, W. M., Fernandes, D., Mistry, J., & Davies, Z. G. (2021). Perceived biodiversity, sound, naturalness and safety enhance the restorative quality and wellbeing benefits of green and blue space in a neotropical city. The Science of the total environment, 755(Pt 2), 143095. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143095
Luo, J., Wang, M., & Chen, L. (2021). The Effects of Using a Nature-Sound Mobile Application on Psychological Well-Being and Cognitive Performance Among University Students. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 699908. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.699908
Thoma, M. V., Mewes, R., & Nater, U. M. (2018). Preliminary evidence: the stress-reducing effect of listening to water sounds depends on somatic complaints: A randomized trial. Medicine, 97(8), e9851. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000009851
Arai YC, Sakakibara S, Ito A, et al. Intra operative natural sound decreases salivary amylase activity of patients undergoing inguinal hernia repair under epidural anesthesia. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 2008;52:987–90.
Alvarsson JJ, Wiens S, Nilsson ME. Stress recovery during exposure to nature sound and environmental noise. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2010;7:1036–46.
Annerstedt M, Jönsson P, Wallergård M, et al. Inducing physiological stress recovery with sounds of nature in a virtual reality forest—results from a pilot study. Physiol Behav 2013;118:240–50.
Thoma MV, La Marca R, Bronnimann R, et al. The effect of music on the human stress response. PLoS One 2013;8:e70156
Williams, D., Hodge, V. J., & Wu, C. Y. (2020). On the use of AI for Generation of Functional Music to Improve Mental Health. Frontiers in artificial intelligence, 3, 497864. https://doi.org/10.3389/frai.2020.497864
Krause, A. E., Dimmock, J., Rebar, A. L., & Jackson, B. (2021). Music Listening Predicted Improved Life Satisfaction in University Students During Early Stages of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 631033. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.631033
Rebecchini L. (2021). Music, mental health, and immunity. Brain, behavior, & immunity - health, 18, 100374. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbih.2021.100374
Chair, S. Y., Zou, H., & Cao, X. (2021). A systematic review of effects of recorded music listening during exercise on physical activity adherence and health outcomes in patients with coronary heart disease. Annals of physical and rehabilitation medicine, 64(2), 101447. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rehab.2020.09.011
Azi, L., Azi, M. L., Viana, M. M., Panont, A., Oliveira, R., Sadigursky, D., & Alencar, D. F. (2021). Benefits of intraoperative music on orthopedic surgeries under spinal anesthesia: A randomized clinical trial. Complementary therapies in medicine, 63, 102777. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2021.102777
Thaut M. H. (2015). The discovery of human auditory-motor entrainment and its role in the development of neurologic music therapy. Progress in brain research, 217, 253–266. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.pbr.2014.11.030