Rolling Thunder? Take a bath

When you listen to your hifi, no matter what level it’s at, do you find it coloured by a sound like “rolling thunder”? I’m wondering if you actually are, but you’re just not aware of it yet. Let me explain my thoughts (ponderings?).

There’s an age-old conundrum; do you prefer a bath or a shower? Bear with me, this isn’t going anywhere tasteless! It’s just something I noticed many years ago, which I’ve found to be consistently repeatable to this day and has made me question certain aspects of my hifi listening arrangements.

Having had a history of problems with my upper back/neck I have usually been able to get some relief of the symptoms by soaking in a bath. I noticed when it was very quiet, that if I allowed water to fill my ears completely (with all of the air expelled by doing a quick Granville: finger on the ear and gently “j…j…jiggle it a bit!”), I became aware of a persistent deep bass “rolling thunder” type of sound at a very intrusive level. I later found that by completely relaxing while in the bath (sequentially relaxing the muscles along the lower back, midriff, hands, arm, then up to the shoulders and neck/jaw muscles with head supported), but still with my ears under the bathwater, I could make the sound miraculously ‘fall away’ to a much less intrusive level.

I have no medical background, but it seems clear that the sound is related to localised muscle tension. My guess is that the noise is likely to be colouring our listening experiences even though it isn’t apparent to most of us until the ears are blocked (in this case by the bathwater).

Conclusions? For me I guess that would be that being fully relaxed when listening to music may be more beneficial than I’ve previously recognised. I’ve tried to address this with a good, properly supportive listening chair but I know I certainly could improve this aspect (short of a full Linn-type intervention with spikes under my butt). Others might prefer a different approach. Maybe a favourite tipple or other chemically induced means (and I’m not for one second suggesting this!). I’m not sure, and I’ll leave that for the reader to decide for themselves.

All of this depends on my physiology not being totally different to everyone else’s of course. Hopefully some members will be able to reproduce this effect and be kind enough to confirm that there is some validity to my meanderings. Or maybe everyone already knew all of this anyway, in which case… why didn’t some bugger tell me?

Alternatively, these might just be the insane ramblings of an old fart who’s spent too much time in lockdown and needs to be institutionalised immediately. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether big butterfly nets are needed!

I haven’t experienced what you describe, but water conducts sound much better than air, so with your ears on the water you will be hearing noises accumulated from your body (and sounds conveyed through the bath itself from the floor, maybe walls etc). If calming your body changes the sound, you could be hearing the reduction of blood flow etc from your whole body immersed in the water, so might be nothing to do with your ears per se.

1 Like

If it was related to blood flow as you say IB, wouldn’t the sound ‘pulse’ to the rhythm of … well, your pulse?
This sound is a continuous monotonous deep bass note.

I would guess so, however if hearing your whole body at the same time, then maybe it becomes a blur as the pulse in, say, your toe is presumably slightly later than where the blood leaves your heart. And the rushing blood must make a noise going through the huge network of arteries, and veins where there isn’t a pulse (or obvious pulse). Next time, perhaps measure your hear rate through the process, and blood pressure before and after…

But I am not a physiologist, just hypothesising a possible explanation for the effect you experienced in the bath.

Meanwhile ears certainly don’t hear the same constantly, long term or sometimes short term, I guess for a variety of reasons - the example I use because it is readily demonstrable and can be dramatic is if anything causes or results in a difference in pressure across the eardrum, such as when you have congestion due to a cold - when blowing your nose or even yawning can equalise and make a sudden big change to sound. Maybe whatever you are hearing is just another part of the cause of differences. This is one of the reasons why comparisons of sound at different times without a reference is notoriously unreliable.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.