The World’s Most Annoying Sound?

I saw the following headline on Gizmodo earlier this week:

Which Sounds Are the Most Annoying to Humans?

and my first thought was the following clip from Dumb and Dumber:

Surprisingly, that sound did not make it into the article.

Gizmodo reached out to a number of sound-experts to find out what the most annoying sound might be.

One of the answers at first surprised me, but after I thought about it, I had to agree that it is the most annoying sound.

But before I reveal that sound, let me share what a couple other sound experts offered:

  • chalkboard scraping. that is one that came to my mind, and just thinking of it sometimes sends shivers up my spine.
  • sounds that get in the way of whatever you’re trying to do. For example, you might be trying to work from home, and your neighbor is outside using his drill. What makes such sounds even more annoying is one’s lack of control over such sounds.

And now for the big reveal.

Dr. Tjeerd Andringa, Associate professor of Auditory Cognition at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, claims that the most annoying sound to humans is the sound of vomiting because it elicits a visceral response.

That’s not one I would have thought of, and I’m not sure if I would classify it as annoying or disgusting, but it certainly is just about the most unpleasant sound I can think of, perhaps because it triggers almost the same reaction in the person hearing it.

So I think the next time I want to annoy someone, I’ll just play a clip of someone throwing up.

But I’ll be sure to have earplugs in, and to be several feet away…

57 thoughts on “The World’s Most Annoying Sound?

  1. That is very annoying. Especially if you’re a cook, and they just ate one of your meals.

    Other annoying sounds that I’d put on the list: A dentist’s drill, the laughter of shrill women, and a car that won’t start.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I wouldn’t consider vomiting an “annoying sound,” although it is pretty disgusting. I’ve got two that drive my wife nuts: 1. When I pick at my nails. 2. When I’m spitting sunflower seeds. Maybe it’s just things I do.🀣

    I’m pretty fussy when it comes to reading and sleeping. I have to have the quietest environment. Mosquitos and flies get on my nerves.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’d agree that vomiting falls more into the disgusting category. Do you ever combine biting your fingernails with spitting them like sunflower seeds? I also like it quiet when I am trying to read…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wouldn’t want to send her over the edge. 🀣

        There were these moments when I was teaching when I’d stop and assess all of the activity going on in the room. There could sometimes be five or more active projects at one time with lots of excited voices. In the middle of all of the chaos, I’d look over, and there’d be a child 100% engaged in his reading. It was striking about the power of a book.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. one sound that makes me jump out of bed and awaken in terror, is the sound of my cat about to choke up a hair ball or vomit. I can move at lightning speed to move the cat out of the room, it’s unbelievable .

    Liked by 3 people

      1. some cats, with longer hair might suffer from it more frequently, or those who eat things they probably shouldn’t have. these two are short haired and pretty tame little lions.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think we may be crossing the definitions of annoying and visceral. The fingernails on chalkboard scenario is a good example of visceral. If it is interrupting your train of thought or drowning out something else you are trying to hear, that sound could also be annoying. But for most people, regardless of the timing or interruption, it will draw a shrinking response and that is visceral. The same would apply to vomiting, I think. When we look at annoying, it has little to do with the sound itself and everything to do with its timing. Sticking to that definition, I think any sound could find its way on the annoying list, based simply on its timing. As for visceral, one of the most visceral sounds we can hear is the crying of a child. We are hard wired to respond to this sound in a autonomic and tangible way. As for annoying, the top of my list currently is a co-worker who sits at their desk and belches, albeit quietly, all day. So much so that I truly worry that have an unresolved medical issue.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. great description of the difference between visceral and annoying. I think a couple of the sound experts in the article went more with the visceral, while one person took your approach and focused on what is truly annoying, which is more situation specific.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not a big soccer fan, but that sound is annoying on television. I can imagine how much worse it would be in person. I wonder if others somehow tune that out. My wife will leave the room if I’m watching basketball because of the sound of the squeaky shoes. Until she pointed it out, I’ve never noticed.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I happened to be driving during the inauguration, so I turned on NPR. For about a week and a half it would come on when I started the car. It takes me about 15 seconds to hook up the bluetooth and switch to a podcast. I got so sick of hearing their voices for that 15 seconds that I tuned to a station that’s mostly static. I found it quite soothing.

        Liked by 1 person

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