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Which Sounds Annoy Your Ear?

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.


Do Vuvuzelas Cause Most Annoying Sound?

There are some sounds that are very annoying to the ear. We are bombarded with a multitude of sounds everyday, from phones ringing, alarm clocks, automobile horns blaring, people yelling, being in restaurants where everyone seems to be talking at once and so forth. I guess we probably all agree that nails on a blackboard is near or at the top of the annoying list, but what other types of noises annoy people and why?

Naturally there have been surveys and studies on what noises are the most annoying to people. It turns out the most annoying sound in the world is the vuvuzelas. If you are like me, you may might not know what it is. It is a long plastic horn popular with South African soccer fans, and the World Cup sparked many debates as the level of noise was intolerable with 127 decibels of sound. Ouch! The vuvuzelas has decreased in popularity, but they are still used at South African football games.

Anything with that many decibels will probably give you an earache and may impair your hearing over time. Thousand of these vuvuzelas are blown at the same time, which made it difficult to hear the announcers and the players seem to have trouble hearing themselves think! Check out the video is you want to hear this sound.

Vuvuzela Moment - 2010 Soccor World Cup Buildup

Salford University Study

An English professor, Trevor Cox, at the Salford University took a year to complete a study rating 37 sounds on his website, ( They were rated on a scale of irritability.

The results listed fingernail scratching a blackboard again, "babies crying, ubiquitous cell phone ring tones, but the most irritating sound voted on was vomiting. Professor Cox also found that females rated 25 out of 34 sounds more horrible than the males. Babies crying was an exception, as males found the crying worse than the females.

This is a list of his top 10 irritating sounds:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Screeching nails on a blackboard
  3. Donkey braying
  4. Dentist drill
  5. Loud burping
  6. Chewing with the mouth open
  7. Train screeching on tracks
  8. Multiple babies crying
  9. Microphone feedback
  10. Seesaw squeaking

Gawker Poll

Let’s look at some of the other sounds people consider annoying. According to National Geographic the three top irritating noises are: nails on a chalkboard, scraping forks and Styrofoam squeaks.

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According to a Gaweker these are the top ten annoying sounds:

  1. Someone asking - "Do you mind is I ask you a question?" (I disagree with this)
  2. Fork on a glass
  3. Squeaky chalk on a blackboard
  4. Nails on a bottle
  5. Nails on a blackboard
  6. Female scream
  7. Angle drill
  8. Breaks on a cycle squeaking
  9. Baby crying
  10. Electric drill

Personally I would have to add the Emergency Broadcasting System, Sirens, snoring and cicadas.


Why Are Some Sounds More Annoying?

If you know a little bit about the anatomy of the ear, you will have the answer to the question. The ear canal is a long tube, which is closed at the eardrum. Research has proven that sounds from 2,000-4,000 hertz are magnified once they are inside the ear drum.

The normal human voice falls in this range. When the ear canal collects the sound of a shrill scrape even in this range the effect can be a piercing reverberation, an actual physical reaction. This type of sound can even cause an increased heart rate and perspiration.

Loud noises can damage the sensitive structures of the ear and cause tinnitus and hearing loss. Sound is actually measured units called decibels. Normal conversation is 65 decibels, while heavy traffic may be 85 decibels. Every increase of 10 decibels means it is 10 times more powerful inside of your ear. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can occur with a one episode of intense sound.

The sensitive structures are called hair cells, and once they are damaged they do no regenerate. Therefore, it is important to limit your exposure to loud noises, by keeping your distance, not listening to loud noises for a long period of time or wearing ear protective wear. Noise levels can be a big problem in manufacturing plants and, of course, at concerts.

Most Annoying Sounds Ever

In Summary

If you think about your daily life, I am sure you are experiencing more noise then you probably realized. Many noises are unavoidable. I taught my children to use their "inside voices" when they were young as three boys can get quite loud. Then, in the teen years there is the battle to turn down the music, but of course, I blasted music any time I could when I was a teen. Maybe it is a rite of passage. If you want to be annoyed click on the videos on the right.

Vote in the poll as to which sound you consider most annoying. I mute the TV when certain announcers come on to sell something, as they have loud mouths and the volume seems to magically rise. Last but not least, protect your ears from very loud noises to avoid those hearing aids so many must wear as they age. The ear needs a little TLC.

Annoying Sounds

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Pamela Oglesby

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