With over 3.1 million monthly searches, rain unanimously tops the list as the most popular sound on the web. With just over 622,000 monthly searches, crickets ranked as the second most popular sound.
Similar to its regenerative effects in nature, the rhythmic sound of rainfall seems to instill a sense of rest for the spirit.
“Our brains are drawn to patterns and routines,” says Judy Ho, Ph.D., a California-based neuropsychologist and member of the Forbes Health Advisory Board. The brain is constantly looking for threats, but rhythmic patterns — like a gentle, steady rain — “signal relaxation.” These signals send the message to the brain that it’s safe to turn off high alert mode, she explains.
Rain is a type of pink noise, a sound that contains all of the frequencies that humans can hear, but with a greater focus on lower frequencies and reduced intensity in the higher octaves. (For comparison, white noise offers all frequencies that humans can hear with equal intensity.) Research suggests pink noise may help people sleep, although clinical evidence is limited. Aside from the relaxation benefits, such rhythmic sounds can also benefit people with tinnitus by masking ringing or other noises in their ears.
The most popular man-made sounds
Sound seekers also seem to love a good round of applause, as clapping tops the list of favorite human-made sounds. And while the jury is out on the effectiveness of “gossiping therapy,” at least one study suggests that clapping may be an effective tool for brain stimulation.
Second is laughter, which researchers say is an easy way to boost mood and reduce the production of stress hormones. The crunching of leaves, the ticking of clocks, the ringing of church bells and planes taking off are also very popular.
Demand for man-made noise drops significantly after these results, with steam train whistles and Ferrari engines attracting far less interest.
The most popular nature sounds
Sounds of nature seem to capture the human psyche profoundly and originally. A 2022 study found that participants who listened to birdsong specifically experienced noticeable relief from feelings of mental stress and fatigue. Meanwhile, another study in Ecopsychology suggests that sounds of nature can help improve a listener’s overall mood.
Nature sounds are searched for by 71% of survey respondents and are by far the most popular type of sound people search for online – and with good reason.
“Research shows that being in nature reduces stress chemicals like cortisol, reduces anxiety, and promotes a sense of peace,” says Deborah Courtney, Ph.D., a New York-based psychotherapist and member of the Forbes Health Advisory Board.
Science also supports the idea that sounds from nature can affect a person’s inner state in powerful ways, adds Dr. Courtney added. For example, a 2017 study in Scientific Reports observes how sounds of nature tend to be associated with a decrease in sympathetic nervous system response (fight, flight, or freeze) and an increase in parasympathetic nervous system response (rest and digestion).
“Nature is a pathway to spirituality and meaning,” adds Dr. Hey there. “It also has an inviting cadence and evokes positive memories and feelings.”
Along with rain, thunder and wind are the most popular nature sounds online, according to Forbes Health data.
The most popular animal sounds
Known for their distinctive chirping, crickets dominate as the most popular animal sounds searched on the internet. Listeners also frequently look for cat purrs.
Science seems to confirm the benefits of hearing animal sounds. A 2018 study in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review found that participants who heard nature sounds, such as the chirping of crickets, experienced significant improvements in cognitive performance compared to participants who heard urban sounds, such as traffic noise.
The most popular food and drink sounds
Perhaps the most controversial part of the list, a series of food and drink noises appeal to thousands of noise seekers each month. Popping Popcorn gets nearly 4,200 monthly searches, followed by Apple Crunch with 2,270 monthly searches and Sizzling Bacon with 2,060 monthly searches. Pouring wine only takes 820 searches.
Research into the phenomenon known as autonomic sensory meridian response (ASMR) shows that some people experience tingling in the neck and visceral relaxation when hearing certain types of sounds. In some cases, the popping of popcorn can evoke a similar reaction in some listeners.