Why People Have Physical Reactions to Unpleasant Sounds

If you thought you only had five senses, think again! The five senses you were taught as a kid—touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing—were just the beginning. This week on Brain Games meet your brain’s super senses that guide you through life.

Ever thought about how you stay upright while walking? Or why keeping track of time passing is harder when the activity is more exciting? How about those certain noises that induce a physical reaction?

Your brain’s hidden senses are responsible for those natural functions and habits. Besides, it takes more than five senses to make sense of the world. Let’s take a look at secret sense behind how your brain hears sounds.

In this brain game, volunteers test out a new brand of headphones. However, these special headphones are actually engineered to show you how your brain instinctually responds to the basic sense of hearing.

At first, the volunteers enjoy some pleasant tunes and fun beats. However, what happens when we mix in a selection of awful noises? Find out in this clip:

Why do we have such a physical reaction only to those unpleasant noises?

Your brain senses sound in hertz, which measure sound waves as they move through the air as vibrations. The higher the hertz’s frequency, the more powerful the vibrations are. The inner ear is home to a sensitive system that receives these sound waves before sending their information to the brain. Certain sounds actually trigger your amygdala, which is the part of your brain that controls the “fight or flight” response. This suggests that our brains have evolved to associate sounds of specific frequencies with danger or distress.

While the sound of nails on a chalk board or of someone throwing up aren’t actually language, they do communicate. They trigger an immediate biological response that is tied to our ancient survival instincts.

Sounds not only tap into our natural reactions but can also make our mood. Play along in this mini game to see how sounds can trigger strong feelings.

Discover more senses in this week’s episode of Brain Games: Super Senses on Sunday at 9/8c on NGC.


  1. Joyce Trembath
    March 13, 2016, 9:31 pm

    When some moron is blasting the woofers I get sick to my stomach and my eyes go wonky. I also start to become agitated, angry, and vindictive. If I had access to a weapon I’d be blowing the damn vehicle up.