Close your eyes and think of home… what does it sound like? The telephone ringing? Pipes clanging? Children playing, or maybe dogs barking? The sounds of the home can trigger all sorts of emotions and memories, but are there any common themes?

We decided to investigate…

We conducted an online study, asking over 200 respondents aged 18-65 currently living in the UK, which sounds they most associated with being at home. 

The responses were varied to say the least! We had everything from snoring dogs and bleating lambs (with clarification that the respondent lived in Wales), to the Emmerdale theme tune.

And the results are in…

10. In last place of the top 10 sounds of the home was clocks ticking and clicking, keyboard tapping, laptops and light switches. These familiar noises were voted for by 5% of respondents.

9. At number 9, and somewhat surprisingly, 8% said that floorboard creaks and footsteps reminded them of home.

8. Coming in at 8th on our list is the sound of water– 12% mentioned water drips, bubbles in a fish tank, running a bath or shower and/or flushing loos. 

7. We have buzzing in 7th place, with 15% of respondents mentioning the hum of a fan or extractor fan, electric toothbrushes, lawnmower or vacuum.

6. The kettle – how predictably British we are… the highest scoring single electrical appliance was mentioned by 24%. For a quarter of Brits, that warm and welcoming bubbling of water is the signal that we are home.

5. Pets - For 27% of respondents, pet or animal sounds came to mind when they thought of being at home. We had a couple mentions of lambs and cows, however as expected, animal sounds in the home were dominated by dog barks and cat meows. 

4. The background hum of machines – closely behind outdoor noises, 34% of people mentioned some kind of background hum from the oven, fridge, tumble dryer and/or washing machine.

3. Outdoors – interestingly, 37% of Brits associated sounds of the home with the outdoors, such as birds chirping, cars passing and the wind howling.

bird chirping

2. 40% of responses mentioned people, ranging from the sounds of children playing and shouting, to boyfriends talking and babies babbling. Some had a positive spin (“laughter” was a popular one), while others not so much (“arguments” and “children bickering” were just as frequent). 

1. TV & radio – a true sign of the times, the background sounds of the TV, radio and/or music came top with a whopping 65% of respondents mentioning at least one of them. 

What does this mean? 

Positive sensory associations

These sounds all evoke feelings of home and so will carry with them positive emotional associations we have with cosying up on the living room sofa or cooking with loved ones in the kitchen. 

The whir of a coffee machine or clang of cooking pans might be enough to trigger feelings of warmth, comfort and safety typically associated with being at home, even if we’re not actually there.

Research shows sounds evoke emotionally charged memories (Koelsch, 2015), both positive and negative in nature (e.g. Perry, 1999). As demonstrated by our research, many Brits can unite in shared sound-home associations, despite our differing lifestyles and experiences. Culturally, the sounds, and consequently the emotions that go with them, will change. 

This is the present - but what about the future home? A hundred years from now, our homes may sing to the tune of digital beeps and weird erroneous hums. Will social interactions and the sounds of outdoors still be important? 

If brands and product developers are to appeal strongly to consumers’ senses in the home, the basis upon which products or services are designed must align with their current sensory associations with such a place - like the sounds, smells and textures.

If you think your company could benefit from research into the senses, get in touch with us at listen@condimentjunkie.co.uk to discuss!