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Sound Synaesthesia Series: 2. Hearing Wooden Floors and Ceramic Tiles

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imageI was looking at a picture one day. Thomas was sitting next to me playing his games. He glanced at the picture and told me that he could hear and smell the image. That was the day that I discovered Thomas’ synaesthesia. Being more knowledgable about synaesthesia than before, I took his statement seriously, and asked a few more questions than usual. My suspicion was quickly confirmed.

At the time, I did not believe that synaesthesia really ran in the family as I had not known any synaesthetes in the family except Skye. At least, the discovery of Thomas being synaesthete has normalised the situation a bit, and made me more curious about the genetic causes of this trait.

As you may have noticed, Skye has much stronger colour, taste and touch synaesthesia than Thomas. Thomas has stronger smell and reverse colour synaesthesia than Skye. But when it comes to sound, they are pretty much the same. I suspect it has a lot to do with my husband who has X-Ray like hearing and olfactory.

One of the best things of having three people in a household who have extremely heightened senses is the chance of having a house robbery when we are home is almost impossible. When I first got married, we used to live in a court in a detached house. My husband could hear neighbour’s washing machine running and people snoring. A few times after midnight, we had to drive to see neighbours who were having parties a few streets away to ask them if they could please quiet down. It was a bit embarrassing as no one from the closest streets went to knock their doors.

Now back to sound synaesthesia. Both children can hear wooden floors and ceramic tiles. This differs to their usual colour to sound synaesthesia, probably because of the larger areas, richer patterns and textures of wooden floors and ceramic tiles.

Almost a year ago, a researcher used a chart of nine wood veneers (attached to the blog) to ask what synaesthetic responses people had. Both children could hear sounds. This evening, I showed them the chart again. They still heard sounds, but answers were different from their last year’s answers. In contrast, sound associations to the wooden floor and ceramic tiles at home and their grandparents’ houses are far more stable.

Here are their sound responses to the wood veneers on the chart:

Thomas
A1: dog barking
A2: Chinese people eating
A3: fine liner pen writing
B1: tree branches falling down
B2: wooden floor cracking
B3: mountain falling down (loud)
C1: no sound
C2: prawn crackers cracking
C3: no sound

Skye: many have multiple sounds
A1: roadwork drilling
A2: wiih woough mixed with sounds from rain forest and an instrument playing
A3: quiet, people dining in a restaurant
B1: horses purring
B2: a voice making woo sounds, stopping and starting
B3: curry boiling, people eating curry and every few seconds hearing people making noises indicating curry is very hot
C1: no sound, but has a lot of textures which surprises him that there is no sound
C2: meat shredding machine running
C3: Robin birds chirping in the middle of a day at a rainforest in Greenland, kookaburras yapping away

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