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Designing Products with Sound by Amber Case, Aaron Day

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Chapter 1 Introduction

How Sound Affects Us

Listen. 

Do you hear that? There are birds chirping somewhere, or wind whistling on a windowpane. Maybe traffic noise or a distant train. Even if you’re in a “quiet” room or office, there’s the whir of cooling fans, the hum of a heating system, the buzz of distant conversation. Go into an anechoic chamber, and you can still hear the rush of blood in your ears.

Unless you are hearing impaired, you have been hearing the world since you were in your mother’s womb. It’s the most consistent source of information we have about the world. Yes, you hear when you are asleep. Stop reading right now and think about that for a minute.

Sound can get our hearts pumping when we watch a movie in a theatre, or hear music at a club. The right kind of silence or ambient noise can make us feel calm. The shape of a room and the surfaces in it create acoustical environments that comfort us, disorient us, make us relaxed or feel on edge. Beyond hearing, sound is literally something we feel: we process sound under the surface of consciousness, and the results can lead us to hate or love a place without even knowing why. Everything from the design of a room to the shape of a circuit board can affect how we experience sound.

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Hearing works at a pace that’s faster than consciousness. Human brains have the ability to draw meaning out of a sound before its specific ...

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