Online Clock Discovers The World's Most Hated Sounds

April 12, 2014   Technology News
(PRLEAP.COM) April 12, 2014 - One might expect a website called an Online Alarm Clock to be obsessed with time. After all, there is plenty about time with which to be fascinated. Its length. Its beginning. Its management. Time is an inescapable law of the universe. What you might not expect is for the owner of the site, Thomas Churm, to be just as fascinated with sound.

"Conventional wisdom says that people hate the sound of their alarm clocks," Churm says. "This got me thinking. What makes us hate certain sounds and love others? And are there sounds we hate more than the constant beeping of our alarm clocks in the morning?"

Churm, who started OnlineClock.net in 2006, isn't one to let his curiosity go unfulfilled. He found the answers to his questions in academic and scientific studies. As it turned out, he wasn't the first to wonder about the human auditory system and how it responds to various sounds. While there is still much to learn about the way we perceive sounds, how we associate them, and why we find some pleasant and others disagreeable, there is a growing base of knowledge from which to start. It is from this base that OnlineClock.net has developed a new infographic entitled "The Most Hated Sounds in the World."

The infographic points out the physical processes by which humans take in ugly sounds. Using brain imaging, a study from University College London found that the amygdala is responsible for adjusting emotional responses to unpleasant noises. It sends a sort of distress signal to the auditory cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for processing sound. In this way, our emotional response to a negative sound is heightened beyond the normal emotional response to other sounds. These sounds, the researchers found, typically lie in the frequency range of 2,000 to 5,000 Hz. Why those frequencies should be so unpleasant is still a matter up for debate, but one of the study's authors is quick to point out that screaming falls into that range.

While OnlineClock.net was gratified to find some answers, the site's owner was even more interested in identifying the specific noises people hated most. The meat of the infographic is dedicated to that information, and it is a compelling menagerie of unpleasantness. Disc sanders, chalkboards, and crying babies populate the list, giving viewers an entertaining tour through some of the ugliest sounds in the human experience. Notably absent from the top ten, however, is the alarm clock.

At the end of the infographic, OnlineClock.net addresses this omission. While the sound of an alarm clock may not have made the top ten list, few would argue that it is among their favorite sounds. The site is unashamed to add the default sound of its own alarm clock to the fray. With a strangely biological sound, the clock's default alarm sounds like a cross between a frog and a robot. Is this really the sound users want to hear when they wake up in the morning? When they finish a period of productivity? As it turns out, this might just be the case.

According to the site's internal research, users find the default alarm clock sound annoying but effective. This jibes perfectly with the research conducted by UCL. After all, if we have a stronger emotional response to unpleasant sounds, it stands to reason that we may require something in that frequency to bring us out of a deep slumber. An alarm earned its name for a reason. OnlineClock.net is quick to point out the many alternative sounds available to its users, but sticking with the default sound may be the most effective at bringing sleep to a quick and decisive end. If a user feels otherwise, however, there are millions of YouTube videos that can be substituted for the built-in alarm, using their Video Clock.

What sounds might be more pleasant? The infographic balances out the most hated sounds in the world by including the most pleasant. Laughing babies and flowing water are among the most treasured sounds, so users who want a more relaxing, pleasant way to wake up may want to consider using them to bring them out of a night's sleep.

In addition to the infographic, OnlineClock.net has created an accompanying video. Using humor, animation, and fittingly a grating narrator, the video takes the viewer through the top ten most hated sounds in the world, complete with corresponding audio samples. If viewers can't remember what nails on a chalkboard sound like, the video will be more than enough reminder.

"Time and sound are inextricably mixed," Churm says. "What is a watch without the steady tick-tick-tick of its seconds hand? What is a grandfather clock without its bellowing bells? As long as I'm in the business of time management, I'll always be fascinated with sound."

With colorful infographics like "The Most Hated Sounds in the World," Churm all but guarantees that OnlineClock.net's users will share his fascination.
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