When we think of noise, many times we imagine the kinds of sounds that keep us awake at night or disturb our focus. Loud machinery, rowdy neighbors, busy highways, and the everyday bustle that many of us are accustomed to living around can all contribute to the constant level of noise that disrupts our everyday lives. Although this is a daily reality for many people, it’s important to take a moment to think about the ways in which sound can calm and heal us.
The Noise Project is interested in looking at all aspects of noise, including the ways it can push forth healing and restoration. On a personal level, we can think about sounds and noises that make us feel connected and grounded. Many people can think of their favorite song and how it might help them get through a tough day, or how nature sounds help soothe and relax our minds. The scientific community is also investigating the ways in which noise can be healing, and there have been some very interesting discoveries!
One study looking at music and brain development found that premature infants who were exposed to calming sound environments, such as the Indian flute, showed brain network organization similar to that of full-term infants. Investigators of another study done in 2013 were surprised to find that mice who were exposed to two hours of silence a day developed new cells in the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. Both these investigations shine light on the ways that noise and sound can be channeled in healing and reparative ways through the strategic use of calming sounds or periods of silence.
It’s important for us to think about how we can use noise, sound, and silence in ways that benefit and expand human health and well-being. Our own community partners are doing this! By finding out how noise affects their communities, they are able to better understand what kinds of noises hurt the community and what kinds of noises build the community up!
How do the findings of the studies mentioned apply to the context of your own life? Do you feel more calm and replenished when you find moments of silence in your day? Do you notice a difference in your mood and well-being when you are surrounded by calming or soothing sounds? If you want to think more about noise, while also contributing to our project, take a moment participate in our noise survey!