Happy New Year, everybody. Just like the mayonnaise at the back of the refrigerator, I’m baaaack. I had to take a bit of a break. I hope you don’t mind. But I’m happy to be back in the saddle telling tales of the beauty of music and sound and how it is so beneficial to us. Rather than music, this time, let me talk of sound.
The older we get, the more we hum. Some of us hum in the car while driving. Some of us hum in the shower (if we’re not singing). Then there are those of us who hum without a care in public, in the grocery, in doctor’s offices, while walking down the bike trail.
Get more from the Citrus County Chronicle
Why would we do this? And is there any benefit to this odd behavior?
Turns out our brains are programmed to absorb all sounds, but high-frequency sounds, which are common in humming, seem to get preferential treatment. The beauty of high frequency sounds is that it stimulates energy.
So the high pitch stimulates energy. But there is more. If you want to get into the science of it, it stimulates the vagus nerve. Maybe you remember some of my previous articles about the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve wanders (vagus = vagabond) throughout the body cavity bringing whatever neural signals we have fed into it.
I’m going to skip some of the science and get to the nuts and bolts. According to studies that have been done on humming, it is a little like chicken soup: It cures what ails you. For us elders, it is important to note that it increases balance. And for everyone, it increases mental focus, creativity and understanding. And probably the benefit that addicts people to humming is that it produces a calming response and relaxation.
Other benefits include increased immunity and balancing your blood pressure, probably because of the calming effect.
I never thought I needed a lesson to learn how to hum properly. But there are right ways and wrong ways. Humming needs to be nasal, not through the mouth. This nasal humming is what stimulates the inner ear and then the nervous system.
Hum gently and quietly. Nobody else necessarily has to hear. Try to hum 20 minutes a day and see if you get the results the researchers found.
I told you humming is the chicken soup of sound. But there are other sounds that promise benefits as well.
A researcher in France, Fabian Maman, has been using sound to blast cancer cells into oblivion. Apparently, cancer cells are fairly rigid. Normal cells have very flexible cell walls. When certain sound waves hit normal cells, the cells flex and survive the assault. But cancer cells, rigid as they are, shatter.
This doesn’t have a clinical application yet for combating cancer, but you never know what the future might hold.
Another medical use of sound used today under certain circumstances: kidney stones are dissolved using acoustic waves.
Sound is powerful. We have harnessed it for many good purposes. One tremendous use I know of for humming is being able to “sing” along when you’ve forgotten the words. That happens.