How Altering Noise Can Actually Change The Way Our Palates Taste Food

Most people are aware that our sense of smell is important to our sense of taste — in fact, according to Science World, around 80% of what we taste is actually due to our sense of smell. But did you know that our other senses and their perceptions, including sight and color and hearing and noise, can also impact how our palates taste food?

Although it's still a developing field, a number of studies in the last few decades have confirmed the link between sound and our perception of taste. Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University is a leading researcher in this space. He has conducted a number of studies on this topic, finding, for example, that hearing a loud crunching sound can make you think that a potato chip tasted crispier, while hearing the sound of popping bubbles can make you think a carbonated beverage tasted fresher. And while the sound of crunch and bubbles may be related to the food property in question (freshness), further studies have revealed impacts on food flavors unrelated to the sound itself.

Sound can have other effects on tastes and flavors

Subsequent studies have shown that listening to loud noises (around 85 decibels, or the noise level typically found in an airplane cabin or a fairly loud restaurant) can actually suppress the taste of sweetness and saltiness, while enhancing the taste of umami, which could explain why tomato juice and Bloody Marys are so popular on flights. Beyond volume, it seems that the pitch of the sound can also impact how things taste, with studies showing a correlation between sweet and sour tastes to high-pitched notes and bitter and umami tastes to lower-pitched notes.

To take advantage of this, you can try wearing noise-canceling headphones the next time you're on a flight, and want to really taste the sweet and salty flavors of your meal, without having to add more sugar or salt. You can also try putting on specific music, such as a song with more higher-pitched notes to really bring out sweet and sour flavors, or lower-pitched notes to enhance the bitter and umami. And if you want to really savor the ultimate cheese board, try listening to something with more staccato notes, which, according to experimental artist Caroline Hobkinson (via Quartz), really "brings out the texture in cheese." Or just put on a favorite track, which will make everything taste better.