Around the World in Sound

Last update on Dec, 04, 2017

Travel around the world in sound. Sound helps us to make sense of the world around us, and certain sounds can trigger memories. A recent survey by Amplifon, the worldwide dedicated hearing specialist found that two thirds of Brits say sounds evoke memories of places they have visited. 

With sound being such a prominent travel memory, Amplifon have carried out research to find out which cities across the world have the most recognisable sound.

Barry Downes
Around the World in sound map showcases the many different soundscapes around the globe

Barry Downes, Professional Services Manager at Amplifon said, “we know that memories are formed using all 5 senses and that sound can be a real trigger for people to unlock these memories, especially when it comes to travel. That’s why we’ve launched the Around the World in sound map – to showcase the many different soundscapes around the globe.”

The survey of 2,000 UK adults found that our very own capital city, London, came out as the city with the most recognisable sound and the best “soundscape”.

The sound we most associate with London is the clanging bells of Big Ben, followed by the London Cockney accent and, of course, the distinct voice echoing around the London Underground, telling hurried passengers to “mind the gap.”

Just behind London was New York, where the iconic yellow cabs seem to dominate the soundscape. The top sound associated with New York is the sound of taxis and traffic, crawling up and down the streets (40%). However, Frank Sinatra’s “New York New York” wasn’t far behind, with 39% of people associating the crooner’s classic song with their perception of the city.

Music featured heavily across respondents’ associations with many of the soundscapes; Edith Piaf with Paris; carnival and samba sounds with Rio De Janeiro; and Bollywood songs with Mumbai.

In the Irish soundscape, it’s the accent that is the most recognisable, followed by the sound of Irish dancers and a jig played on a violin. Similarly, local accents are the most recognisable sound in cities in Milan, Barcelona and Australia.

Cairo was the only city not to be defined by traffic, accents or music. The noise of its famous bustling marketplace is the sound that defines this city, according to the Amplifon survey.

Barry Downes
A good soundscape can help build positive memories that will last forever

Though most sounds seem to bring fond travel memories, there are some sounds that can leave you with negative perceptions of a trip. The sound most likely to ruin someone’s holiday is the clamber of construction (37.7%). The racket of screaming children is the second most likely sound to ruin a trip, (30%), and even noisy neighbours can dampen our memories (11%).

Barry Downes concludes: “The results reveal how important sound is when us Brits are on holiday or visiting a new place. A good soundscape can help build positive memories that will last forever.”

Additional information

  • Around a third (64%) of people say that certain sounds evoke memories of places they’ve visited
  • The most recognisable soundscapes are:
  1. London 19%
  2. New York 17%
  3. Paris 16%
  4. Rio De Janeiro 7%
  5. Mumbai 6%
  6. Dublin 5%
  7. Cairo 4%
  8. Milan 2%
  9. Barcelona 2%
  10. Melbourne 1%

Two fifths of people plan their holidays around the relaxing sounds of nature. However, only 11% plan their holidays around bustling city sounds and the din of local merchants

Sounds that define a city:

  • Paris, France: Je ne regrette rien - Edith Piaf - 39%
  • Milan, Italy: Italian accent - 34%
  • Dublin, Ireland: Irish accent - 65%
  • London UK: Big Ben - 73%
  • Barcelona, Spain: Spanish accent - 41%
  • Mumbai, India: Bollywood music - 53%
  • Cairo, Egypt: Busy market stalls (38%)
  • Melbourne, Australia: Australian accent (52%)
  • Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: Carnival music (66%)
  • New York, USA: Sound of traffic/taxis (40%)
  • The top 3 most irritating accents are:
  1. Mumbai, India (15%)
  2. New York, USA (11%)
  3. London, UK (10%)
  • The Brazilian accent was shown to be the least irritating
  • The sounds most likely to ruin someone’s holiday is the sound of construction (38%). Screaming children is the second most likely sound to ruin someone’s holiday (30%)

Survey information

A survey of 2,000 UK adults was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Amplifon. Specific data split sample sizes are available on request. Survey carried out in September 2016.

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