Sound and Food

This week at Hearing International food is king…..Great food is enjoyed in many ways, but there are certain sounds that every good cook hears which will surprise those taste buds from far left field. 

Spiegel (2014) reminds us that smell or scent plays a critical role in how we perceive food and is often confused with aroma. Scent or smell is used to describe a skunk or even perfume, but aroma…describes that special aura of bread, coffee, wine (wine is called the “nose” as well). 

When there is difficulty with smell or scent, there can also be some confusions with taste.  The visual element of food makes the impression of it appetizing and can clearly make or break an otherwise great culinary dish.  Texture is another way people enjoy food from rubbery squid (calamari) to the softness of mushrooms. But it’s sounds from the kitchen that provide the clues as well as the long lasting impressions of….“What’s for dinner?” 


The Sound of Food


The sound of food refers to pan noises or others noises that food makes as its cooked or eaten. These noises can set up delicious memories, such as the noise of mom in the kitchen making that great breakfast or some other noise shich reminds us of great food or drink experiences.  To some, it’s the crack of the spoon on the crème brulee, breaking that brown succulent seal to the crème inside. To others, it’s the sizzle of bacon….heard long before the great smell, or the pour of a beer…. the pop of the can…the whoosh of the cap or cracking that lobster or crab and that shell snapping to let out the goodness.

Nothing is quite like the sound of popcorn popping, heard before the aroma reaches you. The sound sends a message that ”salt is on its way to allow you to enjoy that movie just a little bit more.” Others iconic sounds are  ‘dogs on the grill making that perfect special frying sound, or the “sizzle-whomp” of one of  Kate McDermott’s perfectly baked pies that sets up hunger pains and cravings for dessert. 

About those pie sounds.  It’s the sizzle-whomp of the pie that Ms. McDermott says is the “heartbeat” to a pie.  Kate says that “the sizzle” is the sound of hot butter cooking the flour in the crust melding it into a crisp golden lid and the “whomp” is the sound of the thickened filling bumping against the top crust as it bubbles at a steady pace.” 

Who would ever think that sound has a role in our perception of food? 


The Flavor Sense From the Sound of Food


It’s not only in the sound food makes as it is cooking, but there’s also a flavor sense that is obtained from sound.  The crunch of a chip, the snap of a carrot, or the fizz of a freshly opened beverage may greatly influence just how good we think those foods taste.  Charles Spence is an experimental Psychologist at Somerville College, Oxford, UK who feels that sound is the forgotten flavor sense.   His work on vision and chemical senses asks the question: Do we just smell or taste what we see?   

Spence (2015) headed an Oxford research project to understand the interactions between vision, odor and taste perception and, in particular, to investigate the influence of color, odor and taste on perception as well as the level of processing where any cross modal integration might occur.  In his opinion, a lot can be told about the texture – crispy, crunchy, crackly – just from the mastication sounds heard while biting or chewing.  He feels that there is a growing body of research that shows one can change a person’s experience of what they think they are eating by synchronizing eating sounds with the act of consumption,

According to, “We often think it’s the taste and smell of bacon that consumers find most attractive. Our research proves that texture and the crunching sound is just—if not more—important.”  Texture can reveal how fresh food is as well.  For example, if an apple cracks crisply when it’s bitten into, instead of yielding without a snap, you know that’s a good sign. Even soft foods, like bread, bananas or mousse can make subtle sounds when they’re bitten, sliced or plunged into with a spoon, and Spence believes the commercialization of sounds in the food industry may soon be growing in a big way. 

Science has also shown that changing the sounds a food makes can influence a person’s perception of it.  (probably does not help with Brussel sprouts).  Spence demonstrated that people give carbonated beverages higher ratings when the sound of the bubbles popping becomes louder and more frequent, making sound an indicator for texture and, therefore quality.  

Cooking and food make such sounds that our own Gael Hannan at HHTM reminds us that those without hearing loss can leave the kitchen and wander around the house attending to other chores, still perceiving those wonderful warning signs of food that may be cooking too long, water still running, and other sounds that tell us preparation for dinner is progressing, which those of us with hearing loss do not perceive.  Hannan, our HHTM resident cranky cochlea consumer, says that “there is absolutely no way I’m going to hear a boil gone berserk such as eggs cooking to a molten mass in a pot boiled dry, the water left running in the sink, or that ding-dingity-dinger of something that is done, over done or burnt to a crisp”

The sound of food, cooking or eating is in some opinions more powerful than a super aroma……especially the  sizzle-whomp of a great pie!



Hannan, G. (2012).  Recipes for a good cook with a hearing loss.  Hearing Heath and Technology Matters. Retrieved April 4, 2017.

Moskin, J. (2017).  To become a better cook, sharpen your senses.  New York Times.  Retrieved April 3, 2017.

Spence, C. (2015). Eating with your ears:  Assessing the importance of sound of consumption on our perception and enjoyment of multisensory flavor experiences.  Flavour, 4(3). Biomed Central.  Retrieved April 3, 2017.

Spiegel, A. (2014).  Most satisfying food sounds of all time.  Huffington Post, April 18, 2014.  Retrieved April 3, 2017.









About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.