Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
12:00 AM 18th May 2024

Psychologist Reveals The Effects Of The Most Listened To Soothing Sounds

Photo by Mitchell Kmetz on Unsplash
Photo by Mitchell Kmetz on Unsplash

According to research, the sounds of nature could benefit a person’s mental wellbeing, relieving them from stress and bringing them a sense of calm.

With natural sounds being the most common choice for relieving stress, the experts at HAYPP wanted to find out which soothing sounds people are most drawn to. They also partnered with psychologist Dr Rebekah Wanic to provide extra insight on the effect that different sounds have, and the ideal time to listen to each.

Key Findings:

Four out of the top five soothing sounds are water sounds, which combined generate over one billion YouTube views.

Research has shown that watching a fire on a screen, accompanied by crackling fire sounds, can actually help reduce blood pressure.

Rustling leaves rank at the bottom of the list, with 3,026,000 YouTube views (over 405 million less than thunderstorm sounds).

Psychologist Dr Rebekah Wanic recommends listening to birds singing, city noise, waterfalls or running streams in the morning for best mental health impact.

The world’s most preferred soothing sounds, ranked
RankSoothing SoundNumber of YouTube Views
1 Thunderstorm 409,000,000
2 Rainfall 399,000,000
3 Fire Crackling 197,000,000
4 Ocean Waves 151,000,000
5 Running Stream 43,000,000
6 Birds Singing 41,000,000
7 Waterfall 36,000,000
8 Chirping Crickets 24,900,000
9 City Atmosphere 18,800,000
10 Wind 17,300,000
11 Cats Purring 11,800,000
12 Rustling Leaves 3,026,000

copyright John D Sirlin
copyright John D Sirlin
1. Thunderstorm

Generating a whopping 409 million YouTube views, thunderstorm takes the first spot for the most popular soothing sound. Thunderstorm sounds are a typical example of what is called ‘white noise’ - a mix of frequencies allowing a person to drown out any noises that might be found disturbing.

Dr Rebekah Wanic comments: “The booming sounds that punctuate the rainfall in thunderstorms are often somewhat predictable in recorded versions and may provide a sense of comfort in that hearing them from a safe place can help you feel protected and secure.”

copyright Budimir Jevtic
copyright Budimir Jevtic
2. Rainfall

Following closely behind, with 399 million YouTube views (10 million less than thunderstorm), is rainfall. Soft rain sounds are an example of ‘green noise’ - a constant mid-level frequency creating a flat and steady sound.

“Habituation to repetitive noise can reduce arousal because the consistency doesn’t require alertness to respond to change. Rainfall and ocean waves are also very rhythmic and consistent, offering a soothing pattern that is predictable.”

copyright New Africa
copyright New Africa
3. Fire crackling

Third place goes to fire crackling sounds, which have accumulated 197 million YouTube views. While not really a white noise, fire sounds provide a similar effect with their continuity, helping people drown out any disturbing noises. Research has proven that watching a fire on a screen, accompanied by crackling fire sounds, can actually help reduce blood pressure.

“Crackling fire and rustling leaves may be less predictable but both offer repetition in sound frequency that can be comforting.”

4. Ocean waves

Ocean waves are fourth, with 151 million YouTube views. Often, ocean sounds can help a person recall pleasant memories and this in turn can bring that person calm. Due to the difference in wave sizes, the sound of ocean waves contains a mix of frequencies.

copyright stefan johansson
copyright stefan johansson
5. Running Stream

Rounding off the top five, generating 43 million YouTube views, is the sound of a running stream. Yet another water sound that’s preferred by many people when they need a sense of calm. Another form of white noise, running stream sounds can certainly be helpful when needing to drown out surrounding noises.

“Running streams and waterfalls follow the same type of pattern as rainfall and ocean waves, with regularity but enough change to be both calming and interesting.”

Dr Rebekah Wanic provides additional insight on the best times to listen to different soothing sounds:
“While each person is likely to have their own preferred sounds along with a preference for the best time and place for listening, considering the associations with these different sounds, I would suggest that morning would be ideal for things like birds singing, city noise, waterfalls or running streams as these would be activating to help get one going.

"During the day, more steady sounds like ocean waves or thunderstorms might offer a more powerful and impactful noise to create calm that rises over the hustle and bustle. In the evening, crickets, crackling fire or purring cats might be more soothing because listening to them can help activate pleasant memories that are commonly associated with the connection between such sounds and winding down for the day.

"For someone who uses background sounds to drown out unwanted ambient noise, white noise or its variations may be appropriate throughout the day or particularly useful when falling or trying to more effectively stay asleep. I would suggest that people experiment with different options to find their optimal solution.”

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