The sounds that Americans love and hate to hear

Linley SandersData Journalist
November 17, 2022, 10:11 PM GMT+0

There are some noises that people hate to hear and others that they find incredibly soothing. Good or bad, sounds matter; most Americans say they are sensitive to the sounds that people around them make.

Majorities of Americans in a series of two YouGov polls conducted October 4 - 7, 2022 say they find it irritating to hear each of 10 noises, led by the top aural irritants of someone scratching on a chalkboard, chewing with their mouth open, talking loudly, smacking their gum, or snoring. The list of 19 possibly irritating sounds rated by respondents was sourced from an open-ended question on an earlier YouGov poll that asked Americans to share any sounds they dislike or hate hearing. Respondents were only asked about the sound in a written format; for their sake, no audio of the sound accompanied the question. The results are representative of all Americans, including people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Which sounds are named by the largest share of Americans as the ones they find most irritating? The nation's least favorite sounds are hearing someone scratching on a chalkboard (26% say this is the most irritating noise), chewing with their mouth open (14%), farting (13%), or talking loudly (11%).

Now to the good news: sounds that people like hearing. Majorities of Americans find the sounds of a rainstorm, singing, or a baby laughing to be relaxing. The list of 16 potentially enjoyable sounds rated by respondents was sourced from an open-ended question that asked Americans to share the sounds they like or love hearing, and was complemented by lists of popular ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) audio.

The most relaxing sound, by far, was a rainstorm. Most Americans (59%) who found the noise of a rainstorm calming also chose it as the most relaxing sound. Listen for yourself and see if you agree with most Americans' assessment of rainstorm noises:

— Carl Bialik and Taylor Orth contributed to this article

The polls on October 4 - 6, 2022 and October 5 - 7, 2022 were each conducted among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for these polls.

Image: Adobe Stock (fiore26)

Explore more data & articles