I was reading about the 30 best films about music, and I got thinking about sounds. Humans have explored sounds for millennia. We have used them for communication, entertainment, worship, defense mechanism, wellness and a whole bunch of other things.
I remember days spent at my gran’s with great happiness. We would lie down on our grandmother and listen to the sounds from her tummy. She built stories of all that was happening inside her – factories at work she said. She was the one who first introduced us kids to the fact that doctors too listen to the sounds inside our bodies to diagnose things. She made doctor’s appointments fun by coaxing her doctor friend to get us to listen to his body!
As I grew up, I learnt of the word auscultation. Although it sounded very sophisticated, the frenchman René Laennec designed the stethescope to just do what we did lying on our grandma or at the doctor’s clinic – listen to the factories inside us. They are used to listen to the sounds made by our blood circulation, intestines, and our breathing. The frenchman also went ahead and matched sounds to pathological changes in the chest. This listening along with palpitation are two of the best skills required to listen to a troubled body, before it can be diagnosed and healed.
Just like our internal sounds, we can also listen to external sounds which can communicate with us. Parents of young kids can vouch for how sharp their ears become after a child is born. Studies show that infants might be picked up in as quickly as 5 seconds when they cry!
Leaving aside empathy for kids, human beings can hear and identify a variety of sounds and quickly process it for response. Young kids can pick up underlying tensions in our voices and react with a bout of weeping. We can identify sounds subconsciously, and react to only those that need a reaction like when parents continue to work, with an ear tuned to sounds coming from the kids’ room. Interestingly there have been instances of blind people whose brains rewire to ‘see’ with their ears!
How sounds work
In these times of social distance, sounds which are are very comforting:
- The voices of friends and family we do not see regularly
- The ding of the microwave, popping of popcorn, sizzle of bacon; all which tells us that our meal is ready!
- The chatter on Zoom or MS-Teams where our kids meet their friends and teachers
- Shared watching of a movie between people in a long distance relationship
People can get real inventive and add to this list. The sound of an ambulance can be comforting if it’s coming to ferry a near and dear one to the hospital; it can also make people cooped up at home very anxious.
For parents who do not see or hear from their kids regularly, listening to their chatter within the house, might feel comforting. For others living in cramped spaces, some quiet might be a more welcome thing.
Sound activities you can try
Three fun activities to try:
- Get each one to close their eyes by turn. The others take turns to make a sound. The person with their eyes shut needs to guess who it was.Great Stem activity for younger kids where they can recognize animals, instruments and other sounds from nature(be warned that some of us can be terrible mimics!)
- Use freesound to download a bunch of sounds. Play it and see who can guess the sound first(kids love the grossest sounds best!)
- People can make various sounds and string them together to make music. Record and have fun.
In these times of anxiety and uncertainity, sounds can be both disturbing and calming. Try to use it for well-being. Build memories and songs you can lean on later in life.