11 Points

The 11 Most Annoying Sounds (According to Science, and According to Me)
written by Sam Greenspan

As I continue my transition from happenin' young dude to housebound old man, my frequency and variety of complaints inevitably must escalate. Today's target: Noises.



I recently got into a little thing with my wife over her method of eating dinner. Specifically, the way she would drag the tips of the prongs of her fork along the bottom of a bowl to get those last traces of feta cheese or any other non-vegetables out of her salad. (No one ever seems quite that determined to get every last bit of lettuce.) She thought I was insane for cringing repeatedly at the noise. I said it was awful. And because I felt the need to prove it was, empirically, an annoying sound, I tried to find scientific evidence.

I got close. Very close.

A 2012 study out of the University of Newcastle in the U.K. found the worst sounds in the world. (Conspicuously absent: Jim Carrey's "most annoying sound in the world" from Dumb and Dumber.) Here are their findings:
  1. A fork on a bottle.
  2. An electric drill.
  3. A baby crying.
  4. Squealing brakes on a bicycle.
  5. A power saw.
  6. A woman screaming.
  7. Nails on a chalkboard.
  8. A ruler on a bottle. (I don't really get this one.)
  9. Chalk on a chalkboard.
  10. A fork on a glass.
  11. A knife on a bottle.
So close to "fork on a bowl." But not quite there.

But this study is hardly authoritative. It featured brain scans from only 16 test subjects, and a set of only 74 noises to choose from (some of which were things like "water flowing" and "a baby laughing").

So here's a counter proposal: My picks for the 11 most annoying/worst sounds in the world. No brain scans, just opinion. And nothing involving something called a "chalkboard" made my list, much like the sounds of "rewinding a tape in the VCR," "the modem connecting to America Online," and "a long answering machine message that features a child singing" were also excluded.
  1. Someone trying, repeatedly, to cough up mucus in their throat.

  2. A persistent cricket chirping in the house. I just spent far too much money on an exterminator, all because of a cricket living deep under my fridge who made the downstairs portion of my house unbearable at night.

  3. A human bone breaking.

  4. A random person in a public bathroom moving loud, splashy bowels.

  5. Sudden, loud feedback. The kind from electronics or microphones, not people critiquing you. Although that's also pretty grating to listen to, come to think of it.

  6. A dentist drill carving up a tooth.

  7. A baby wailing. Seven months ago, this wouldn't have ranked in my top 100; didn't bother me, even on a plane. Now that I have a baby, I see how it cuts into one's soul.

  8. An erratic snorer. If you just establish a snoring rhythm, that's fine. But when snoring follows no discernible cadence and occasionally sounds like you're gasping for breath and dying, how can anyone else sleep?

  9. The default iPhone alarm clock noise. It makes me angry every morning, and whenever I hear it in public I seize up.

  10. The tips of a fork's prongs scraping a plate or bowl.

  11. 2 Broke Girls.


This post was originally published on Monday, March 21, 2016 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Personal.

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