Why do we hear the sound of sea waves on a conch shell?

If you’re living along a coastline or visited the beach for vacation, you might have walked along the seashore to visit witness the ocean’s beauty. However, another great thing that you should not miss the seashells. They come in different sizes, lovely patterns, exciting colors.

While they are rare to find, one of the inevitable things people usually do with them is to hold the shells up to their ears. Why not? It provides the sounds of the ocean inside the shell. So, wherever you are, you can hear the calming sound of the sea waves swathing on each other until they reach the beach line. The best shells that generate such soothing chime are the massive, spiral conch shells.

But of course, the sea or ocean can’t be found in the shell. So, why do we hear the sound of them on a shell? If it isn’t the sea or the ocean, then what do we actually hear?

One theory suggests that the resonation you hear inside the shell is the echoes of your own blood flowing in your ear’s blood vessels. However, this has been disproved by many experts. They cited that if that is the culprit, then we should have heard the sound louder if we exercise as it makes the blood flow faster. Holding a seashell onto your ear after exercising doesn’t make any changes to the sound we hear.

Meanwhile, other people say that the air rushing brings the sound of the ocean we hear into the shell, which then produces the noise. However, this theory was debunked again. If you try to go to a soundproof room, air would still be present, but you will no longer hear any sound generated inside the shell.

It’s not the sound of the blood nor the air. So, what do we actually hear?

The sound of the ocean we hear from a shell can be traced to the ambient noise coming from the surroundings. Seashell resonance happens when the seashell you are holding onto your ear absorbs the noise, which then echoes inside it. Shells then happen to be incredible amplifiers on that noise.

The sound may vary depending on the shape and size of the shell you have, and each one can produce a different frequency. The bigger the shell, the longer it would take for the sound to bounce back and forth. That is why you will hear more of the ocean-like music on larger shells.

In fact, you can use other objects to create the same sound you hear from a shell. Try to cup your hand over your ear or a drinking cup over your hear. You can quickly duplicate the ‘ocean’ sound that you hear.  Then, adjust the distance at which you put the container, and the sound will differ depending on the distance and angle of the object.

Try out other things in the house, like a pan, a flower pot, or a cardboard box and notice how the sound changes.

Moreover, the sound on your surroundings also affects the loudness of the sound you will hear inside the shell. The sound from the outside resonates within the shell, echoing around and producing the noise. The louder the sound from it detects, the louder the sound will be generated.

However, some people tend to detect different sound patterns from the seashell noise. Shell scrying in a psychic phenomenon, wherein you will be asked to listen attentively to the shell. You will hear words, phrases, and even conversations. Who knows? You might be able listen to something you’re longing to hear.

More Readings:

Seashell Resonance (Wikipedia)

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