Posted on Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Can Your Ears Help You Taste?

Crispy apple

You probably don't realize it but your sense of taste doesn't reside completely in your mouth. Taste involves a number of senses including smell and feel. And, as scientist are now discovering, sounds can play a large role in how we perceive the taste of food.

The crunch, crackle, and crisp sound of what we're eating has as much of an impact on perception of food's taste and freshness as does the feel of it between your teeth. That's because there is a link between our ears and how we evaluate taste. When two or more sense are involved in determine how we experience something it's called cross modal. Knowing that sound plays such an important part in our enjoyment of food, it probably comes as no surprise that advertisers and food companies use this reaction to their advantage. Which is why you see spots like the one below for Kit Kat bars.

It's not just the snap of a candy bar that can get your taste buds going, but the sounds of music played while you eat certain types of foods. Researchers have even developed soundscapes suffused with different notes and tones that could stimulate a person's perception of sour or sweet. This ability to heighten our perception of food happens more intensely for someone with synesthesia. Synesthesia is an inherited condition in which the senses merge so that someone who is reading a book might simultaneously experience an unrelated inundation of colors, smells, or tastes. Kitchen Theory, a UK restaurant, has taken the growing evidence of sound influence on food to create an experience similar to synesthesia for their diners. They even call it Synesthesia by Kitchen Theory. The motivation for doing this is to create a deeper culinary experience using something referred to as "sonic seasoning."

When two or more sense are involved in determine how we experience something it's called cross modal.

Sonic seasoning has been described as using sound to sway someone toward greater like or enjoyment of a product. According to a short film on the subject on BBC some manufacturers of fizzy drinks can spend up to a year developing the perfect sound for soda when it is poured. Likewise the PBS short embedded below quotes research indicating the sizzle of fajitas cooking can increase sales of fajitas at a restaurant. The PBS short also points out that music played while someone eats can also influence if they find the food more or less bitter or more or less sweet.

The take away from all of this is that your ears play an incredibly important role in your every day activities. Not just the ones you are familiar with, but the ones you might not even recognize. So take care of your ears. By allowing yourself the entire spectrum of sounds you allow yourself to further enjoy all of your life experiences, even eating. So see your hearing health provider and make sure that you can hear as much as possible! If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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