How Does Sound Affect Us?
Sound is a form of energy. It is pressure waves that vibrate, produced by vibratory organs. The transformative power of sound is based on the fact that we ourselves are essentially sound beings by nature and live in an “ocean of vibration”. Everything in the universe is in a constant state of movement, including our bodies, and every entity from individual atoms to the planets has their natural vibratory frequency and thus produces a particular sound. Together all these sounds and vibrations create a universal harmony where each element has its own function and contributes to the whole.
We know that sound vibrations can be translated by the delicate structures of our inner ear, but what is often forgotten is that we don’t only hear with our ears as the whole human body is an “ear” and we actually hear through every cell in our body, for example, more with our skin than with our ears. So the energy vibrations of sound affect our entire body and in fact our entire being, on all levels of the integrated body-mind-spirit system.
The basis for the healing potential of sound is the universal rule that everything in nature has the tendency to go toward harmony (aka homeostasis). In regard to vibration, this happens through the natural phenomenon of entrainment in which one entity resonates synchronously with another in response to its dominant frequency of vibration. Practically this means that we human beings also react in resonance with the vibrations in our surroundings and thus our physiological functioning may be altered by the impact of sound waves, either produced by our own voices or by objects or instruments in our environment. When the vibrations of our bodies are out of harmony, “out of tune” (which can be caused by a number of things, like chronic distress or prolonged negative thoughts or emotions), we often experience suffering and disease. With properly mobilized sound, we can utilize the phenomenon of entrainment to “retune” ourselves to our natural frequency, that is, our balanced and harmonious state of being, which allows us to feel our connection with ourselves and the world again.
On the physical level, sound enters our system in many different ways. For example, coming through the auditory canal, sound stimulates the powerful vagus nerve which connects the ear to almost all organs of the human body and directly activates our parasympathetic nervous system, the signals that tell our body to relax and digest. In this way, sound can act as an effective and fast path to the much sought-after relaxation response, making it truly an antidote of chronic distress. Sound is also proven to spike the production of nitric oxide (NO), a tiny gas molecule that plays a crucial role in promoting the health of our organ, cardiovascular and nervous systems, but is often distracted when a body is under stress. Sound also directly entrains our brain waves, making it possible to reach deep states of relaxation very efficiently with certain types of sound interventions. On the other hand, sound entering our ears also stimulates and fuels our brain, especially the high-frequency sounds rich with overtones. And, when using our own voice, we practically massage our inner organs with our sound vibrations and also use our breath, effectively transforming our breathing patterns. Breathing as the most fundamental aspect of life is related to various physiological phenomena and studies have even directly associated respiratory capacity with longevity.
On the mental and emotional levels, sound affects us in many ways as well. For example, by focusing on sound, we can effectively go past the busy mind and reconnect with our ability to fully concentrate on the present moment. Sound can also help experience and release emotions, soothe emotional turbulence and induce a psychophysical state of relaxation that liberates us from feeling burdened or overwhelmed. As a powerful form of expression, music in general is a great antidote of depression.
On the spiritual level, sound opens us up, and by calming our minds and senses, gives space for a deeper awareness. By following an audible sound and the silence before, in between, and after sounds, we start gradually go towards deeper states of consciousness, where we can start hearing our inner sound and finally connect with the state of soundless sound – the silence within.
I believe we all have an innate capacity to vibrate in harmony and that sound can help us to restore that state of being. When in harmony, our physical bodies are able to function properly and maintain health, our thoughts and emotions are balanced, and we can live from our essence, manifesting our core qualities such as love and compassion.
Sources: Gaynor, Mitchell L. (M.D.): “The Healing Power of Sound: Recovery from Life-Threatening Illness Using Sound, Voice and Music”, Boston: Shambala, 2002. Nakkach, Silvia: “Free Your Voice: Awaken to Life Through Singing”, Sounds True, 2012. Beaulieu, John: “Human Tuning. Sound Healing With Tuning Forks”, BioSonic Enterprises, 2010.
(Originally published in October 2017)