The Sound of Silence

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to talk about white noise and whether it’s always a good thing.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

One thing I find hard to live without is a white noise machine.

It sounds like a contradictory term. Is white noise a sound at all? How is it different from silence?

I discovered white noise while stationed on Roosevelt Roads Navy Base in Puerto Rico. My first night in the barracks I found I was surrounded by a thunderously high noise coming from everywhere. Well, it was a jungle out there and I anticipated unique noises but this was like nails on a chalkboard.

I soon found out it was the sound of frogs called “coqui.” They’re named from the sound they make: “Co-kee” and are the national symbol of the island. They are unbelievably small with a thousand watt call. Their song started at dusk and went on until dawn. Every night. All night. If they managed to get inside your room, they were impossible to find.

My solution was to run the air conditioner to drown out the sound. That’s how I discovered white noise. It worked until my roommate begged me to turn the air off because she was freezing. Even in the winter it gets chilly on the island.

When I got back to the states, I couldn’t sleep. It was too quiet. The silence was too loud. Someone in the world of radio offered a solution. Every night on a certain station you could dial in to hear the sound of waves breaking on a beach and retreating. Other solutions were a radio set between station for static or leaving the bathroom fan on.

So, what is white noise? It’s any constant, repetitive sound which overrides other noise. For some of us it’s incredibly soothing, practically hypnotic. For others it’s annoying as a buzzing mosquito. There’s a heartbeat setting recommended for babies, both human and animal. Scientists have found it also helps people suffering from tinnitus.

Simon and Garfunkel

You can buy white noise machines at Target or Walmart. They range in price, from $84 at Target, mine was $15 at Kmart. Best price seems to be Amazon. The machines offer a selection of sounds, from waves to rain and stream (which makes me want to go to the bathroom). Now they even have an app for that.

I’ve conquered silence. However, in the rest of the world there are still overwhelming sounds that keep me awake at night. Political discord, the news, riots, the sounds of gunfire, war and babies crying on the wrong side of the fence. The silence we don’t need is a society which believes their voices aren’t heard. A government working quietly to keep secrets hidden. An earth that has no voice as it’s passively destroyed. What I’d like is a constant, quiet voice of reason. I’d stay awake for that!