Why natural sounds might be calming to people is unclear, but Fristrup speculates that over millions of years of evolution, we may have come to associate the more tranquil sounds of the natural world with safety. “I suspect there’s something about these intact soundscapes that reminds our ancestral brains of a place that’s safe, where there’s no sense of a predator nearby, and that these more cluttered soundscapes are problematic for us because we know we’ve lost that surveillance capability,” he said.
The tranquil chorus of the natural world is in danger of being lost to today’s generation as people screen out the noises that surround them, a senior US researcher warns. Rising levels of background noise in some areas threaten to make people oblivious to the uplifting sounds of birdsong, trickling water, and trees rustling in the wind, which can often be heard even in urban centres, said Kurt Fristrup, a senior scientist at the US National Park Service.
The problem was exacerbated by people listening to iPods through their earphones instead of tuning in to the birds and other sounds of nature that can easily be drowned out by traffic, music and others noises, he said. “This learned deafness is a real issue,” Fristrup told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Jose. “We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears.”
“This gift that we are born with – to reach out and hear things hundreds of metres away, all these incredible sounds – is in danger of being lost through a generational amnesia,” he said. “There is a real danger, both of loss of auditory acuity, where we are exposed to noise for so long that we stop listening, but also a loss of listening habits, where we lose the ability to engage with the environment the way we were built to,” he added. Read article