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The Sound of Silence (Literally)

Living with two turtles has likely helped me "hear" silence better. Turtles by nature make no sounds, so our communication must use other means to be effective.
Living with two turtles has likely helped me “hear” silence better. Turtles by nature make no sounds, so our communication must use other means to be effective.

I have a longstanding relationship with noise.

Loud noise, quiet noise, constant noise, intermittent noise, human noise, machine noise, enjoyable noise, intolerable noise….

Just the fact that I can name so many different categories of noise off the top of my head attests to how much noise I’ve heard (and how much attention I’ve paid to what I’ve been hearing) over the years.

But it has only been recently that I’ve begun to do the same with silence.

I’ve craved silence since, well, probably birth. I remember having some silence before the age of 2, which was when my little brother came along. He was prone to colic. And chronic bronchitis. And a whole host of other noisy, nasty problems that never ever seemed to stop.

In the ensuing years, as I’ve searched in vain for a return to silence (while all my neighbors were busy bringing home power tools and personal leaf blowers) all I’ve found is more noise.

Lately, however, I’ve been trying a new approach. I’ve been challenging myself to listen for the silence instead of the noise.

As I’ve pursued my mission, something very intriguing has occurred. 

I’ve noticed silence has a sound of its own.

It’s not a scary sound (like what is described in the song by the same name).

Nor is it any of the things all the other sounds I’ve heard might be described as.

The closest I can come to describing it is perhaps a soothing sort of tinnitus (that ringing in the ears some people get after noise overexposure).

But it’s not tinnitus either, because I’ve heard stories that tinnitus can get so irritating people play other sounds to try to drown it out.

Nope, this sound that silence makes – another analogy might be white noise (like the kind you can buy online to help drown out noise so you can sleep). If I sat in front of my fan and turned it on a setting way lower than any setting it actually has, that might sound somewhat similar to the sound silence seems to be making.

Another way I might describe it is what occurs when there is this huge jarring sound outside (like a jackhammer breaking up a concrete foundation) and you duck inside and close the door and feel that RELIEF…’s like everything in you from your limbic brain’s fight-or-flight response to your emotions to your actual eardrums breathes a highly synchronized and oh-so-soothing sigh of relief.

That, to me, is what silence sounds like. And feels like.

If any of this holds water (and even if it doesn’t) I have to just say that silence is also an incredibly patient mentor – it has only taken me 45 and three-quarters years to notice that it, too, has sound!

Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever heard a sound you might associate with silence? Do you think silence has a sound? Could there be another explanation for what I’m hearing that I’m calling silence? I’m really curious to find out if there is anyone else who has experienced sound as an attribute of silence!

The Sound of Silence (Literally)

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2020). The Sound of Silence (Literally). Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2020
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