What do you hear right now? If you are home, you may hear the ambient whirring of your dishwasher. If you are mid-commute, you probably hear a chorus of mechanical sounds, voices, and background music.
Sound is one of the most persistent and powerful forces in our lives. It can set our mood, connect us to people we love, and alert us to critical information in our surroundings. Too much sound can also damage our hearing permanently.
Recent studies indicate that hearing loss among young people is 30% higher than 20 years ago. Why? The world has gotten louder, and headphones, gaming, etc. are a big part of that. WHO estimates that more than one billion young people are now at risk of hearing loss due to noise exposure. This trend's long-term impacts will impact the global health landscape for half a century.
Reversing this trend is relatively easy. People should keep their headphone volume to around 60% and wear hearing protection when the noise level exceeds 80 dB.
The real challenge? We need to talk more about sound and its invisible force in our lives.
We wondered, "what if sound wasn't invisible?" Would that change the way we think about it? Inspired by World Hearing Day, Soundly and GN teamed up with three global artists and asked each of them to help us see sound. Read on to see their incredible work.
A global art project that explores the question, "what If we could see sound?"
Design Cells: "The Journey"
Design Cells creates striking video animations that help us better understand our bodies.
The artist's recent pieces on motherhood and addiction have been featured in mainstream publications and earned over 150M views on TikTok.
For this campaign, Design Cells created a vivid visual of sound's path from the outside world to the brain. Click the video to watch the entire journey through the eardrum, ossicles, cochlea, and into the brain.
For curious minds:
Most hearing loss occurs inside the cochlea, where damaged hair cells become unresponsive or die. Loud noise exposure can cause those hair cells to freeze up, break or stop working.
Weirdo Works: "Big Whoops"
Weirdo Works is a youth-focused artist with notable collaborations with global brands and 10 billion views on social platforms like Giphy.
For this project, Weirdo Works focused on loud music's impact on our hearing. His work captures an important message about hearing loss prevention in an unassuming internet-friendly style.
For curious minds:
Download a dB app to measure the sound of the world around you or track your dB output through headphones.
Andy Thomas: "Infrared Sound"
Andy Thomas is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Australia. His sound-inspired artwork has been featured across global stages, including The Lume in Melbourne.
Andy dramatized three soundscapes from the CDC's sound safety chart for World Hearing Day. Watch his reactive art pieces that include visualizations of speech, loud music, and motorcycle noise. The color red indicates sounds that exceed healthy levels.
For curious minds:
Motorcycle noise can permanently damage your hearing after just 50 minutes. A helmet with hearing protection can counteract this effect. Music on the maximum volume through headphones can permanently damage your hearing in just a few minutes. Track your headphone output or keep your volume to 60%.
World Hearing Day
We hope you enjoyed this thought-provoking work. If you want to learn more about hearing loss, hearing protection, and hearing health, we have hundreds of free resources throughout this site.
You can also use this site to test your hearing in just a few minutes. Most audiologists recommend hearing tests every few years to stay in touch with how your hearing wellness is doing in our very noisy world.