Scientists Rank Most Unpleasant Sounds

Posted on October 12, 2012

Researchers from Newcastle University have conducted a study of unpleasant sounds. Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine how the brains of 13 volunteers responded to a range of sounds. The researchers say brain imaging shows that when we hear an unpleasant sound the amygdala "modulates the response of the auditory cortex heightening activity and provoking our negative reaction." The researchers say that anything in the frequency range of around 2,000 to 5,000 Hz was found to be unpleasant.

Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, the paper's author from Newcastle University, said in a release, "This is the frequency range where our ears are most sensitive. Although there's still much debate as to why our ears are most sensitive in this range, it does include sounds of screams which we find intrinsically unpleasant."

These are the ten most unpleasant sounds according to the research study:
  1. Knife on a bottle
  2. Fork on a glass
  3. Chalk on a blackboard
  4. Ruler on a bottle
  5. Nails on a blackboard
  6. Female scream
  7. Anglegrinder
  8. Brakes on a cycle squealing
  9. Baby crying
  10. Electric drill
You can listen to the top five most annoying sounds below from audio clips gathered by the Guardian. These are the same audio files released by the Newcastle University researchers.

The least unpleasant sounds were applause, baby laughing, thunder and water flowing.

The study was published here in the Journal of Neuroscience.