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Have you ever pulled up to a red light and the bass in the music from the car beside you is so loud you can feel the vibration right down to your bones?

Batman logoLoud music at the movies – especially low sounding instruments and drums can be felt as a vibration in your body.

I remember sitting in the movie theatre and watching the latest Batman movie. There were so many drums in the action scenes at the end of the movie. I almost had to leave the theatre. The wave after wave of vibration going through me was really powerful. Even the chair I was sitting in was vibrating! I could feel my heart beat speeding up and my nervous system responding with a heightening of the fight or flight response.

That’s the kind of vibration I am talking about here. It is usually low frequency vibration that you can hear or maybe even not hear. These low vibrations are felt in the body.

At Sound Wellness we share a lot of ways for people to use sound and music to support their wellbeing. But not every sound is healthy. In this series of blogs, we are exploring how sound can harm, or sound that is unhealthy.

If you missed the first two blogs on Sound That Harms, you can check them out here: Sound that Harms – Too Loud and Sound that Harms – Nasty Noise

This blog is focused on unhealthy vibration.

Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines vibration in several ways. The definition for the type of vibration that serves this discussion comes from physics:

Vibration is “a periodic motion of the particles of an elastic body or medium in alternately opposite directions from the position of equilibrium when that equilibrium has been disturbed.”

It is common knowledge that everything is in vibration. That is, everything at the atomic level is moving.

Sound is defined as vibrational energy. It is an energy that stimulates movement and vibration.

Sound goes through you and as it goes through you, it sets every one of your atoms and molecules into a state of vibration. We tend to feel the low sounding vibrations in our bodies much more than the higher sounding vibration. These low sounding vibrations are usually within the frequency range of 20 Hz to around 200Hz.

On the healthy side, some low sounds can help discharge excess emotional energy from your nervous system, releasing symptoms of stress and helping you to relax. Those are wonderfully supportive to your wellbeing.

Examples of this are the right music that relaxes you, or old Tibetan singing bowls (that’s my favorite) or low sounding tuning forks.

But some low vibrations are not so good for you. Examples of this kind of low vibration are the rumble from trucks and buses, rumbles from broken machinery, like an air conditioning fan, industrial noise and some sounds that may come from the earth itself.

humpback whale breachingA specific range of low frequency sound is called Infrasound. Infrasound is generally measured as lower then 20 Hz.

Natural sources of infrasound are earthquakes, volcanoes, waterfalls, lightning and meteors. Many sounds made by larger animals fall into this range. Whale song is below 20 Hz, especially for the larger whales.

Many of us may have heard that animals can sense an earthquake or tsunami before the event. Some researchers have theorized that animals are more sensitive to the infrasound waves in the earth, produced by these events and so the animals attempt to leave the area before it happens.

Infrasound is also used in monitoring earthquakes, charting rock and petroleum formations below the earth, and also in ballistocardiography and seismocardiography to study the mechanics of the heart.

This type of sound has also been studied by military institutions around the globe to be used as a frequency range for underwater communication and as a weapon.

When people are subjected to infrasound and low frequency sound on an ongoing basis, it can cause serious health problems.

Wind farms using large fans to generate power are becoming more popular as a way of generating electricity. But one of the problems that is surfacing in those who live near these farms or fans is a litany of symptoms caused by the low frequency vibration of the movement of the blades of the fan.

Around 2008, my neighbourhood, Ranchlands, here in Calgary hit the national and international news. Many people were suffering from headaches, nausea, hypertension and much more. A research team at the University of Calgary studied the noise for years and never found a cause for it.

This kind of low frequency noise is also surfacing around the world and is causing many health problems in those who are experiencing it. The noise has been called a “Hum”.

Researchers sometimes find a source of the hum and sometimes not.

In Canada, the Mill Woods Hum was recently reported in Edmonton. Here is a link to an article in the Edmonton Journal about it:

https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/heres-what-the-hum-in-mill-woods-sounds-like-is-this-what-youre-hearing

The New York Times reported on the Windsor Hum in February of 2018:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/world/canada/windsor-hum.html

There are several theories on what could be creating this low frequency hum, but no definitive answer has been found so far.

Here is a link to the University of Salford Research Centre and some of the information they share about health issues caused by low frequency noise.
https://www.salford.ac.uk/research/sirc/research-groups/acoustics/psychoacoustics/low-frequency-noise/frequently-asked-questions

Your entire being is a natural resonator for sound. Sound is also food for your nervous system. I encourage you to become aware of what sounds feed you as well as those that don’t.

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