Sound is an extremely powerful element, and something we tend not to think about very often despite it being constantly all around us. Most of us have never thought about how it affects us—and it does. Sound has the power to heal, and it also has the power to do profound damage. Let’s examine both sides.
A World Health Organization (WHO) Europe report took a deep dive into the negative health effects sound pollution had on the citizens of Europe. They just basically asked, how does the noise all around us affect our health and mentality? Here are some of the more surprising findings:
- Noise pollution costs $31 billion a year in Europe. This includes lost days of work, medical treatment, lost productivity and people’s diminished ability to learn new things.
- Noise pollution decreases a person’s expected length of life by one day per year.
- Productivity takes a 66% hit when you can hear someone speaking while you are trying to work or study.
The average classroom in a school in Germany is so loud that, not only does it impair learning, it could cause permanent hearing damage. If Germany’s version of OSHA were to measure the sound in the average classroom, they would require all students and teachers to wear hearing protection. 20 decibels is enough to significantly reduce learning. In a study of airplane noise, researchers found that in schools where aircraft flying overhead was only 20 decibels louder than other schools, there was an 8-month delay in those students’ ability to read.
Half of all European teachers have experienced vocal damage trying to talk over a loud classroom.
Hospitals are so loud that, again, health regulators would usually require hearing protection for hospital workers. 3% of cardiac arrests in Germany were linked to traffic noise.
Where there is noise pollution, there are higher crime rates.
But can sound be healing? Absolutely! Music and sound have incredible properties that have even made it into many mainstream treatments. For example:
Music therapy has been used to heal the physical, emotional, cognitive and social ailments of millions of individuals. It’s been proven useful with developmental and learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, substance abuse addiction, acute and chronic pain and easing the stress of labor.
People and cultures who advocate meditation have often used sound as an aid. The classic “OM” is just an example, but a good one. It allows the person meditating to focus more deeply and get more out of the meditation—which is extremely beneficial to one’s health considering meditation is a great stress reliever, and stress is a huge killer in the modern world.
“Sound work” attempts to create vibrations and frequencies custom-tailored to individuals’ health needs.
Many believe that certain frequencies heal where others can do damage. Between 7.68 and 8 Hz are a frequency that shows up often in nature—the electrical discharges of lighting, the global electromagnetic field, and the frequency of the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. If you tune that frequency up to 432 Hz, it is said that the body and the natural world around it resonate in a complimentary frequency. This is supposed to release emotional blocks and open our consciousness.
And if you think about it, we all know that music helps us. When we are sad, certain music speaks to us. When we are happy, certain music makes us move and feel even happier. Dancing is therapeutic and a part of every culture to have ever existed on the Earth. We all have a natural sense of music and sound, and we have all undoubtedly used it in some way to heal ourselves. Perhaps it is time to do it more intentionally.