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Arts & Culture

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Travis Isaacs
Creative Commons

Humans typically make enough collective noise to keep the earth vibrating at a steady hum. But the pandemic has quieted that hum enough to let seismologists study the vibrations that can be hard to detect in the din of our noise.

The world is eerily silent now, showing us how accustomed we have become to cacophony of loud sound in our lives. We're hardwired to focus on the sounds we need to hear and tune out those we don't. It's hard to notice what we miss when cars and horns and other noisemakers compete for our sonic attention.

And we don't always notice how loud it is until it's quiet.

Today, an ode to the sound we take for granted, including the soothing sound of another human voice on the telephone. Yep, that's what I said. The telephone.  


  • David Owen is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of more than a dozen books. His newest book is Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World
  • Chris Hoff is a sound engineer and co-creator with Sam Harnett, of the podcast, "The World According to Sound." (@chrisjameshoff)
  • Sam Harnett is a reporter and co-creator with Chris Hoff, of the podcast, "The World According to Sound." (@samwharnett)
  • Heather Radke is a writer and critic. Her work has appeared in The Believer, The Paris Review Daily, and RadioLab, among others. Her book, BUTTS, will be published in 2021. (@hradke)

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe and Cat Pastor contributed to this show. 

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