Tattoos that Talk, Sing and Cry?

Robert Traynor
April 25, 2017

There are many forms of art within the world, but few have been around for as long as tattooing

Some feel that tattooing dates back some 15,000 years.  The  discovery of tattooed mummies, Greeks and Romans suggest that it was popular in the ancient world.  The practice is thought to have begun as an accident from a cut or small wound that could have been rubbed by a hand with soot that left behind a permanent mark.  The Bible mentions that tattooing was routine in the Middle Eastern ancient cultures. Some of the earliest evidence is on a mummy nicknamed ‘iceman’  where tattoos appeared on the man’s lower back. Legends and writings suggest that decorating the body permanently in ancient times was used as:

  • Signs of status and place in society.
  • Magical amulets against evil.
  • Punishment.
  • Reminders of a religious belief.
  • Adornments for the sake of beauty.

Growing in Current Pop Culture


Today, 36 percent of Americans aged 18-25 have at least one tattoo, according to a report done by the Pew Research Center. That’s more than one third of America’s young adults! It comes as no surprise that the tattoo industry is the sixth fastest-growing retail business in America, as determined by the U.S. News & World Report. This interest has translated into more than 147 million tattoo related online searches each month on Google. 

How did this once taboo industry achieve this status?   Tattoos have certainly been scrutinized in the past and a visible feature that was once considered very lower class has become…well…..normal?  While twenty five years ago tattoos were common on sailors, prison inmates, and members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, it would have been difficult to find ink on accountants, professors, professionals, pro ping-pong players, or even shoe salesmen.  So, what happened?

It may be the age-old story of the young wanting their own identity.  In the 60s it was long hair, beards, Vietnam protest marches, sex, drugs & Rock N’ Roll and now, among the young, the identity appears to be tattoos and piercings.  Of course, there are assorted reasons people offer for their tattoos, such as getting it for a “specific time or person in their lives that they will never forget”. Others feel more adventurous and don’t really have a specific reason for getting their tattoo.  Some even say, “Your body’s an empty canvas, so you almost want to continue to add to it.”

 Fads and styles come and go and, when tattoos go out of style, regrets for these tattoos may arrive as well.  A want or a need to get rid of those expensive tattoos and erasing them can also be expensive, painful and leave significant scarring upon removal.

How are Tattoos Made?


For those of you new to tattoos, here is how it works; to create a tattoo the artist injects ink into the skin. These injection machines are electrically powered devices that resemble (and sound like) dental drills. The machines move solid needles up and down to puncture skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute. The skin is penetrated by the needle about a millimeter deep. 

Most professional tattoo shops use dual coil tattoo machines because they are readily available and relatively inexpensive. They also provide smooth lines and shading. Although dual coil machines may be the standard, some tattoo artists prefer to use rotary tattoo machines instead. Rotary machines offer several advantages over dual coil machines that make them attractive to a growing number of tattoo artists. 

Since the tattoo machine makes a puncture each time it injects a drop of ink there is the potential for infection so precautions must be taken. Tattoo artists use sterilization and disposable materials as well as hand sanitation to protect themselves and their clients.  To eliminate the possibility of contamination, most tattoo materials, inks, ink cups, gloves and needles are single use.  Many single use items arrive in sterile packaging, which the artist opens in front of the customer just before beginning the project. Once the tattoo is picked out, then the process of presenting the ink to the skin begins. 

Tattooists and people with tattoos vary widely in their preferred methods of caring for new tattoos. Some recommend keeping a new tattoo wrapped for the first 24 hours while others suggest removing temporary bandaging after two hours or less to allow the skin to breathe. Many tattooists advise against allowing too much contact with hot tub, pool water or soaking in a tub for the first two weeks to prevent the tattoo ink from washing out. In contrast other artists suggest that a new tattoo be bathed in very hot water early. 

General consensus for care advises against removing the flakes or scab that may form on a new tattoo, and avoiding exposing one’s tattoo to the sun for extended periods for at least 3 weeks; both of these can contribute to fading of the image. It is agreed that a new tattoo needs to be kept clean. Various products may be recommended for application to the skin, ranging from those intended for the treatment of cuts, burns and scrapes, to panthenol, cocoa butter, A&D, hemp, lanolin, or salves.   For the naïve crowd, if you want to know how tattoos are made click on the pic or here, its about 6 minutes worth….


So What?   Tattoos that Talk… Play Your Favorite Song……That’s What!


Forever audiologists and hearing scientists have thought that sound waves are beautiful things.  The envelopes make interesting patterns and each is unique and different depending on the utterance, the voice, music or other sound. Now….that you have obtained your sound waveform tattoo you can have a talking tattoo! (Click on the “Free Will” tattoo photo for a video.) With the right app on your phone these sound wave tattoos can be read and played.  The tattoo can not only be a beautiful sound wave billboard on your body, but it can talk or play as well.  It can say baby’s first works, a couples’ endearments, wedding vows, a baby’s cry, play that favorite song or rap, even that special dog bark.  So you go to a special 21st century tattoo parlor that does sound waveforms.   Just about anything can be made into a sound wave tattoo. Once the tattoo is set then you will need a special app on your cell phone that reads the waveform tattoo. Basically the camera reads the waveform and then plays it.   (Click on the pic on the right for another great video about these interesting tattoos)  With this, you have a sound wave tattoo, ideally designed to mark you as an innovative hearing scientist or audiologists.

While the process of sound wave tattoos is not quite ready, plans are for the system to begin in the summer of 2017.  There is a group that will be partnering with innovative and exclusive tattoo parlors around the country and possibly the world to offer these special tattoos very soon.  Check with your local tattoo artist to see when they will be in your neighborhood.

For those interested there is a good video on how to remove tattoos…….just in case you decide that that endearment from the last wife or girlfriend is probably no longer appropriate……..Its about 10 minutes long!


Hall, S. (2011).  Iceman autopsy.  National Geographic.  Retrieved April 25, 2017

Tobin, K.  (2008). Body art:  Lifestyle choice or life sentence? – Tattoos and piercings go mainstream. Young Money.  Retrieved April 24, 2017

Thobo-Carlson, M. (2014).  How tattoos went from subculture to pop culture. Huffington Post.  Retrieved April 25, 2017.


Smarter Every Day (2014).  How laser tattoo removal works – Smarter Every Day 123.  Retrieved April 25, 2017.

Soundwave Tattoos (2017).  App Demo.  Retrieved April 25, 2017.

Soundwave Tattoos (2017).  Freewill.  Retrieved April 25, 2017.


Laura (2014).  Coil versus rotary tattoo machines. Painful pleasures.  Retrieved April 25, 2017.

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