Can you hear me now? Key part of new online craze

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Fingernails scraping a blackboard sends a chill down the spine for most of us, but what about a sound that has the opposite effect?

That’s what millions of people are claiming with a new online activity called ASMR, which some wags have dubbed “whisper porn.”

Visit certain YouTube sites and you’ll be treated to people doing things like eating, scratching household items, tapping or brushing their hair, recorded by a sensitive microphone.

The videos supposedly trigger a tingling feeling in the brain called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, thus the ASMR tag coined in 2010.

Some watchers say ASMR creates a euphoric, calming sensation across the body. Some even report the practice has been effective in battling chronic pain, insomnia and addiction.

So many people have been checking it out that Google reports ASMR searches peak between 10 and 11 p.m. when most of us are getting ready to go to sleep.

The jury is still out in the medical community — it could simply be the placebo effect, or it could trigger the release of the neuro-hormone oxytocin, a feel-good hormone released when we’re spending time with a loved one.

In any case, it sounds like a harmless enough activity, especially if the alternative is addictive painkillers.

One thing for sure, it won’t work if you can’t hear the sounds that supposedly trigger ASMR.

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month, and Dr. Tony Sun, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Nebraska notes that hearing loss affects more than 48 million people nationwide. And, according to the World Health Organization, it’s likely to get worse, with more than 1.1 billion young adults worldwide at risk of developing hearing loss.

The increase is attributed to more frequent exposure to loud sounds, including the growing popularity of earbud headphones. While more common among older Americans, some level of hearing loss affects about 20 percent of people over age 12.

Hearing loss can be associated with many other problems, such as social isolation, dementia, depression and increased risk of falls.

Dr. Sun offers these important tips:

— Limit exposure to loud noises such as music, lawn mowers or motorcycles to no more than 20 minutes at a time. Most of us know loud sounds can cause hearing loss, but many of us don’t know that both one-time and cumulative exposure can hurt hearing health.

— Noise-canceling headphones are better than earbuds, but when you use the latter, follow the 60/60 rule — no more than 60 minutes at no more than 60 percent of maximum volume.

— Have your hearing tested by a professional.

— Check out hearing aids, and don’t be afraid to shop around. Check with your insurance regarding coverage.

— Follow “hearing friendly” strategies such as visiting quiet restaurants during slower times, or choosing tables in a corner or along a wall.

Don’t wait to take care of one of your most important senses until it is too late.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: