A scientific study ranked the 11 worst sounds in the world. I also made a list with very different picks.
As I continue my transition from happenin’ young dude to housebound old man, my frequency and variety of complaints inevitably must escalate. Today’s target: Noises.
I recently got into a little thing with my wife over her method of eating dinner. Specifically, the way she would drag the tips of the prongs of her fork along the bottom of a bowl to get those last traces of feta cheese or any other non-vegetables out of her salad. (No one ever seems quite that determined to get every last bit of lettuce.) She thought I was insane for cringing repeatedly at the noise. I said it was awful. And because I felt the need to prove it was, empirically, an annoying sound, I tried to find scientific evidence.
I got close. Very close.
A 2012 study out of the University of Newcastle in the U.K. found the worst sounds in the world. (Conspicuously absent: Jim Carrey’s “most annoying sound in the world” from Dumb and Dumber.)
Here are their findings:
11 | A fork on a bottle
10 | An electric drill
9 | A baby crying
8 | Squealing brakes on a bicycle
7 | A power saw
6 | A woman screaming
5 | Nails on a chalkboard
4 | A ruler on a bottle
(I don’t really get this one.)
3 | Chalk on a chalkboard
2 | A fork on a glass
1 | A knife on a bottle
So close to “fork on a bowl.” But not quite there.
But this study is hardly authoritative. It featured brain scans from only 16 test subjects, and a set of only 74 noises to choose from (some of which were things like “water flowing” and “a baby laughing”).
So here’s a counter proposal: My picks for the 11 most annoying/worst sounds in the world. No brain scans, just opinion. And nothing involving something called a “chalkboard” made my list, much like the sounds of “rewinding a tape in the VCR,” “the modem connecting to America Online,” and “a long answering machine message that features a child singing” were also excluded.
11 | Someone trying, repeatedly, to cough up mucus in their throat
10 | A persistent cricket chirping in the house
I just spent far too much money on an exterminator, all because of a cricket living deep under my fridge who made the downstairs portion of my house unbearable at night.
9 | A human bone breaking
8 | A random person in a public bathroom moving loud, splashy bowels
7 | Sudden, loud feedback
The kind from electronics or microphones, not people critiquing you. Although that’s also pretty grating to listen to, come to think of it.
6 | A dentist drill carving up a tooth
5 | A baby wailing
Seven months ago, this wouldn’t have ranked in my top 100; didn’t bother me, even on a plane. Now that I have a baby, I see how it cuts into one’s soul.
4 | An erratic snorer
If you just establish a snoring rhythm, that’s fine. But when snoring follows no discernible cadence and occasionally sounds like you’re gasping for breath and dying, how can anyone else sleep?
3 | The default iPhone alarm clock noise
It makes me angry every morning, and whenever I hear it in public I seize up.
2 | The tips of a fork’s prongs scraping a plate or bowl
1 | 2 Broke Girls