Do you ever stop to think about how many sounds you hear in a day? Do you ever think about how many of them your brain shuts off so you no longer hear them? And did you know that those sounds could be either helping or harming you?
Yes, it's true. Whether it's birds or bassoons, jingling or jackhammers, cars or carousels, every single sound - be it music to your ears or hell to your hangover - is affecting you on all levels. And many of those sounds can be used in healing, too.
Sharon Carne, author of Listen From the Inside Out has spent decades working with sound and how it impacts us. "Flutes found in Europe predate our use of language," says Carne. "They are over 40,000 years old. Linguists believe we had music before we could speak to each other with words."
If you think about that, it makes sense. There are many natural sounds that we utter unconsciously such as moans or groans, perhaps an ahhh or ouch. Science has discovered that these natural sounds stimulate the brain to release endorphins that help the body manage pain, building into us an ability to heal with sound.
There is more science that says body cells communicate with each other using sound. At the Niels Bohr Institute for advanced physics in Denmark, a team of physicists have put forth a theory that the brain-body communication is through a sound wave called a soliton. These physicists believe that it is the main system of communication from brain to body, while the chemical electrical system is responsible for messages that go from body to brain.
Sound travels more quickly through the body than through the air. We become marvellous conductors for sound and especially in our bones.
"Have you ever noticed that your voice sounds different to you when it is recorded?" asks Carne. "You're hearing the physical sound that your eardrums measure and you're also hearing it through bone conduction because it travels faster through the bone than through the air. The sound created by the bone conduction makes different sounds. Your voice sounds lower to you than what you hear out here because the skull bones are so big."
Carne goes on to say, "When humans sing or play music, there's a cocktail of hormones released. One is oxytocin, the bonding hormone, so it connects us." Drumming is used as a practical method of communication in jungles but at the same time, it connects people to one another, hence the sense of togetherness in drumming circles. Sharing sounds can connect a group of people who have nothing else in common, such as when thousands of people come together to listen to an orchestra. The sweet sound of music is shared by all in attendance, whether or not they know or like each other outside of that concert hall.
In his international bestseller, The World in Six Songs, neuroscientist, musician and author Dr Daniel Levitin puts forth the theory that our history of creating music together has evolved the frontal lobes of our brains in order to develop language. "If we are following the theory that music predates language, it helped develop the brain so we are very deeply wired for sound," concludes Carne.
Over the millennia, people all over the globe have used sound to heal. In the shamanic, aboriginal and native cultures, they use sound as one of their main healers and there are many stories of creation all over the planet that say the earth was "sung into existence" in one way or another.
"Our history of sound and music is extremely rich with gifts of community and healing and health," says Carne. "We've forgotten this. It's here in our DNA. We all know this; we've just totally forgotten it."
She goes on to relate stories of people who have been in great pain and when a group of others creates specific sounds, the pain goes.
Chanting, Tibetan singing bowls, drums, crystal bowls, and bells are just a few examples of how humans have used sound to heal over the centuries. "We've lost touch with this ability," adds Carne.
Thankfully, many professionals are recognizing this, including leading New York oncologist, Dr Mitchell Gaynor, who prescribes sound as a significant part of his treatment.
Sound can not only heal us but it can make us sick. We are constantly bombarded with it and it can be the cause of significant and life-threatening disease.
So what can we do to improve our lives and our health if we can't get away from sound?
First, become aware of the sounds around you, noticing which ones irritate you and which ones make you feel better.
"Even if we're used to sounds that our brains block out, such as traffic, our bodies are still adversely affected." Carne suggests using white noise machines or noise-cancelling headphones when possible. Studies are proving that office noise is detrimental to both business and employees.
One such report in Time Magazine online says that noise is a significant problem in open plan offices, decreasing productivity and increasing stress. In another, a study conducted by Cornell University shows an increase in the production of epinephrine (adrenalin), which is extremely damaging to the body on an ongoing basis. Open plan office workers take an average of 62 percent more sick leave than those in single offices.
Secondly, Carne suggests listening to nature sounds as much as possible, as they "...are the healthiest for us, such as bubbling water, or bird songs. Indoor water fountains or nature CDs work well.
Finally, she suggests taking every opportunity to listen to any sounds or music that you find pleasing. It can improve your life and your health more than you could possibly imagine.
For more from this author, visit www.booksbyliberty.com