Waterfalls and birdsong trigger happy memories for over-50s, study finds

BIRDSONG, a waterfall and waves crashing on the shore are among the sounds most likely to trigger happy memories.

An analysis of 2,000 people aged 50+ found that four out of 10 people hear sounds that trigger nostalgic thoughts only a few times per week. Only one in ten people experience these sounds daily.

Older people said noises like rain and a fireplace made them happy


Older people said noises like rain and a fireplace made them happyCredit: Getty

Sound is also said to set off the best memories ahead of sight and even smell, according to the research.

Others claimed that a cat’s purring, trees blowing in wind, crackling fireplaces, and church bells would transport them to another part of their lives.

Rain on the windows, sheep bleating, and trains going over tracks can all make someone smile.

Gordon Harrison, chief audiologist at Specsavers, which commissioned the research, said: “Sound impacts most aspects of our lives, so it is no surprise that certain sounds trigger happy youthful memories – particularly when it comes to sounds of the outdoor.

“However, given the importance of our hearing, it is important to be checked out regularly to ensure such memories aren’t lost along with reduced hearing.”

The kettle boiling, the radio playing and airplanes flying overhead also featured in the top 40 positively-triggering sounds, according to the over 50s.

67% of adults find that sounds from the outside trigger happy times, so 78% spend a lot of time outdoors. 

And of the 94 per cent who have access to their own outdoor space, they’ll spend an average of five hours in it every week – with 72 per cent referring to it as their ‘happy place’.

Over three quarters of respondents also stated that they cherish their happy memories more as they age.

The study found that more than half of respondents said their hearing has diminished with age. Only 26 percent have had their hearing checked by an audiologist.

According to OnePoll research, nine out of ten people admitted that they took their hearing as a given in their youth.

Feelings of happiness, peace and relaxation are felt by respondents when they hear sounds of the natural world – with 91 per cent spending a lot of time outdoors.

So it’s no surprise that 45 per cent worry about their hearing getting worse, therefore losing the potential to have pleasurable memories triggered in their mind.


1.           A specific song or piece of music

2.           Waves crashing on the shore

3.           Birdsong

4.           A crackling fireplace

5.           Walking on fresh snow

6.           A waterfall

7.           Cat purring

8.           Trees blowing in the wind

9.           Rain on the window pane

10.         Rustling leaves

11.         Church bells

12.         Bees buzzing

13.         A thunderstorm

14.         Rain patter on leaves

15.         Children playing outside

16.         Lawns being mown

17.         A fountain

18.         The radio playing

19.         Sheep baaing

20.         Seagulls squawking

21.         A train going over tracks

22.         Cows mooing

23.         A cork popping

24.         Dinner being served up

25.         Pouring a drink

26.         Mail being delivered

27.         Food cooking on the hob

28.         Cicadas humming

29.         Sports stadium/arena

30.         The kettle boiling

31.         An airplane flying overhead

32.         A crowd cheering

33.         Horses galloping

34.         A beer bottle/tin being opened

35.         Dog barking

36.         Fish jumping out of water

37.         Street entertainers

38.         A toaster popping

39.         A coffee grinder

40.         A garden sprinkler

Broadcaster and Countryfile presenter, John Craven, understands this first-hand. He said: “I started wearing hearing aids 15 years ago when I realised I wasn’t hearing certain voices and sounds.

“Outdoors I wasn’t hearing the gentler sounds of nature that everyone else was.

“But hearing aids have solved that problem and it is a real delight to experience the rustle of leaves, the pitter-patter of raindrops, the distant roar of thunder as well as anyone with normal hearing.”

Gordon Harrison, Specsavers chief audiologist, added: “Hearing loss is common and affects people of all ages.

“There are a range of hearing aids to suit all lifestyles, budgets and hearing needs so no one needs to suffer in silence and can keep revisiting their memories for years to come.”

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