Can’t Hear These Iconic Sounds of Spring?

It may be time to get your hearing checked.



Birdsong. Where ever you live in the United States, the great spring bird migration happens at this time of the year. Warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, orioles, thrushes, vireos fly through on their way from winter homes in the tropics, singing as they wing their way north.eastern-bluebird-c-dorrie-holmes-320 One of my favorites is the eastern bluebird, a very early arrival in my part of Western Massachusetts, claiming its backyard house in February. I realized only this spring (an early one in the east) that bluebirds sing. Here’s a YouTube video. Hope you can hear it!

I was unable to find specific decibel levels for bird songs, which vary according to species of course, but I did come upon a study that found that urban sparrows sing at a higher pitch than they used to, to compete with traffic noise.

Pattering rain. Louder than snowfall but nothing like the deluge of a summer downpour. A moderate rainfall measures about 50 decibels.

Leaves rustling in the breeze are just 20 decibels, close to the softest sound most humans can hear.

Spring peepers. I always thought these were newly hatched frogs, but a “spring peeper” is a member of the tree frog family. The high-pitched sound is a chorus of males, looking for mates. Click here for a picture of the peeper’s balloon-like throat, which makes the sound

Insects. I can’t find any information about the decibel level of a bee buzzing – but it’s good to be able to hear it, especially if it’s near your ear. A buzzing mosquito, on the other hand, comes in at 37 dB, and should be audible.

Squirrels, according to expert Robert Lishak, have a regular language, from “kuk” (a sharp bark of alarm, usually repeated three times) to “quah” (the predator is still in sight but not quite as threatening) to the “quah moan.” Dr. Lishak describes the quah moan as sounding like a “chirp followed by a meow.” “Muk Muk” is a soft buzzing or huffing noise, possibly a male mating call. These vary in decibel level with the softest, the muk-muk, around 20 decibels. You’ll need sharp hearing to hear that one.

Picnics. The crinkle as you open that bag of chips only increases your appetite, and the satisfying crunch as you bite into one makes you want to keep on eating. Healthier foods also have inviting sounds. Thinks of the crunch of a bite of celery, the snap of a carrot. The pop/hiss of a soda can is another familiar picnic sound.

America’s Pastime. How loud is the sound of that bat hitting the baseball? The crack of the bat actually varies in pitch and intensity, depending not only on how hard the ball is thrown and where exactly it meets the bat, but on the kind of hit it produces.

Fun reading: Moonshot: The Analytic Value of the Crack of the Bat, by Robert Arthur. This 2014 analysis of baseball bat sounds found that a line drive in general produced the highest frequency sound, amplified by sound systems in a stadium or on TV or radio. This is followed by the sound of a home run (second loudest), a ground-ball hit, and a ground-ball out.

According to a similar article in The New York Times, a ball hit in the sweet spot has a sharp crack, a ball hit on either side will thunk. The crack may alert an experienced outfielder to the trajectory of the ball before he can visualize it.

Share your favorite spring sound in the comments box, below.

First published on AARP Conditions and Treatments, 3/19/16

3 thoughts on “Can’t Hear These Iconic Sounds of Spring?

  1. To: Katherine Bouton

    Last week I had surgery for a cochlear implant which will be activated April 6th. Your article “Can’t Hear These Iconic Sounds of Spring” certainly will come in handy when I’ll finally be able to hear bird songs. Thank you very much.

    Richard Herring


  2. I have 6 bird feeders that are filled year around. Without my hearing aids I cannot hear them nor can I hear the engine turn over in my automobile. Install my hearing aid in each ear and the entire world of sound opens up including birds chirping.


Leave a Reply to Hermine Willey Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s