The Expert / Sound
”The human voice is naturally very distracting for us because our brains tend to latch onto voices”
On how listening to music can have a positive effect on mood, fitness, relationships, and productivity
18 Nov 2021

McAllister is a part of Sound Experience at leading sound company Sonos and works closely with external sound creators, such as mix engineers, record producers, and film/tv mixers, to bring their voice to the brand’s products. The company, he tells, has done several surveys on how particular sounds can improve our health and wellbeing.

— They prove that there is a connection between music listening and wellbeing. In one of our latest online surveys of 12,000 listeners in 12 countries around the world, we found that listening, particularly to music, is reported by participants to have a significant positive effect on four key areas of life: mood, fitness, relationships, and productivity.

— The survey results illustrate just how deep and multifaceted that connection between music and mood is perceived to be by listeners. Seventy-four percent of participants said listening to music helps reduce stress. Another 42 % said that podcasts had a relaxing effect. Of course, the genre makes a difference. More than half (55 %) of comedy podcast listeners said that those more humor-oriented shows helped relax them. In the survey, majorities of listeners said they’re happier when listening to a favorite song (52 %) and that music helps boost their mood at work (58 %).

Is this backed by any science as well?

— As I’m not a music or sound psychologist, I cannot authoritatively speak to the specific science, but a generally accepted idea is that nature sounds affect us like this because they have a place in our evolution. For example, bird song means there are no predators nearby, so we therefore associate that with safety, and being able to relax. Sound can also be very nostalgic and a trigger of memory, so nature sounds can be a subconscious reminder of a holiday, or a time away from work or other stresses.

And, except bird song, there’s one particular sound that stands out?

— Yes, so, as mentioned, nature sounds have a calming influence for a lot of people. The sound of a rainforest is one of those popular sounds, the constant sound of rain of leaves, interspersed with interesting exotic animal and insect sounds. But it is subjective, some people will prefer rainforest, others will prefer just rain, others may just prefer white noise. Our radio service has a number of stations dedicated to sleep and relaxing, including rainforest sounds. But because people have different preferences, we also have other options there so that everyone can find something that helps them sleep. Our Sleep Station includes works by Grammy Award winning composer Mikael Jorgensen as part of our ongoing commitment to providing more passive listening content that aims to amplify the deeper, holistic benefits of audio on the body and mind. The human voice is naturally very distracting for us, because our brains tend to latch onto voices. For this reason, we didn’t include any singing or spoken word, he concludes.