Many people say the sound of the ocean is soothing.
Why is this? Can this interesting problem be solved? A possible solution might be that there are just some sounds, like some music, that create moods in people.
Or could it be that ocean sounds are tied to something very basic in life that is or that was inherently soothing? Could ocean sounds be related to early sounds, sounds at the beginning of life?
It is reported that the tissues and bones that make up the ears of the human fetus are in place by the 16th week of gestation and completely formed by the 24th week. The auditory nerves send signals from the ears to the brain, but when is the brain developed enough for sound to be perceived? When the fetus can actually hear sounds, what does the in utero environment really sound like? Could it sound like the ocean waves coming into shore or the beach, and is that why the sounds of the ocean, especially at or near the shore, are soothing?
Applying some critical thinking, the fetus is surrounded by amniotic fluid, an excellent conductor of sound. Sounds can enter the mother’s body and pass through the womb and be heard. Some of those sounds can be startling, like those emanating from fire crackers going off nearby or perhaps from fire engines. When things are quiet outside, however, there may be other sounds – internal sounds. Blood is flowing in the estimated 100 thousand miles of blood vessels in the mother’s body. There must be some perceived sounds due to blood flow, as well as pulsing at intervals with the mother’s heartbeat and at slower intervals with her breathing. It is said that a background of such sound would be “white noise”. White noise can be produced by combining sounds of all different audible frequencies. It is of interest that the normal frequency of breathing for an adult at rest is about 12 to 15 breaths per minute. However, during sleep, for a normal person it may be 6 to 8 breaths per minute. This is very close to typical wave frequency at the beach, although waves can vary significantly from less than 8 per minute to more than 12, depending upon wind, wakes of nearby traveling boats, and other factors. Are then the most soothing times in early life when the mother is calm or asleep?
Looking at the problem from a different vantage point.
Many companies sell products that produce white noise, products designed to generate soothing sounds. For example, Amazon sells a “Sounds of the Womb” CD from Media Productions for soothing and comforting babies. See: http://www.amazon.com/Sounds-Womb-Media-Right-Productions/dp/B000XRCLPW
YouTube has such sounds that can be heard online for soothing a colicky baby and to promote such products. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaiLpUZ2DNY
With all of this commercial activity, there must be something to it. The white noise, the sound of the ocean, of the sea, may be reminiscent of the earliest memories and of the most soothing and content early times of one’s life. Looking at this from yet another vantage point, however, are there people who do not like the ocean sounds? If such people exist, did they have a difficult and/or disturbing time in utero? And, if so, what sounds do they find soothing now? This may be another problem to be solved.
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