msnbc.com
updated 9/23/2006 10:52:50 PM ET 2006-09-24T02:52:50

Maybe it's the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard that sends shivers down your spine. Or it could be the annoying squeak of Styrofoam pieces rubbing together.

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In episode 13 of MSNBC.com's podcast, The Body Odd, Dr. Billy Goldberg and Mark Leyner discussed why noises like that make us wince in auditory agony.

"One of the theories I've read is that it's the lower frequencies of that sound that somehow resemble the sound that animals made at one time to warn...it’s one of those ‘fight or flight’ responses...as if it's a call of danger," Leyner said.

We asked podcast listeners to tell us what sounds give them the creeps. Read on for the responses:

Sounds: Okay, this is going to sound so strange, I know. I cannot tolerate the sound of snow crunching under someone's feet. You know that squeak it kinda makes as you walk? Eep! Even the thought of it is enough to give me goosebumps. So, for the record I live in sunny California and skiing isn't one of my hobbies.
Tonya, Oakland, Calif.

Metal against metal, particularly when a cooking pan scrapes the cast-iron grates on a gas range, which happens a lot! I didn't even know I hated it, until a friend told me she hated it and it rubbed off on me. I also hate the sound of other people clipping their nails. It could be because they are doing it in a public place instead of the only appropriate place, the bathroom.
Mary, N.Y., N.Y.

When I hear a noisy bird in my backyard, or nearby — it makes my head hurt.
Mom of 4

Okay, so the nails on the chalkboard question discussed the flight or flight response — through auditory nerve stimulation of medium frequencies. With deep bass and fast paced heavy percussion "music" so ubiquitous I cannot go out anymore as it so irritates my inner ear, causing nausea and even seizures. My medical people explain all this to me, but the store and restaurant owners don't seem to understand or care enough to cut the bass or change to other types of music. I think others are being sickened by not just the volume, but the types of frequencies and certain beats that bombard us all. Earplugs do not block out as much as you would think and actually cause more vertigo for some folks. Long set up question, but a worthwhile topic. Care to help us create a more pleasant experience out in the marketplace?
Tricia, Portland, Ore.

You guys wanted to know what other sounds give us the chills (such as fingernails on a chalkboard)... Two that get to me are: 1) Using the eraser at end of pencil on a piece of paper on a school desk WHEN the eraser is so short that you end up w/ the metal part (which holds eraser to pencil) scraping on the paper. 2) Fingernails on a cardboard box.
Lee, Poe, Ind.

Sounds to hate: My sister and mother always hated the sound of me (I was a good kid, honest) biting on a paper napkin.
Steve, Spokane Valley, Wash.



You asked us to e-mail you about what sounds "make our skin crawl." Okay, here's mine ... I am a woman who is childless BY CHOICE. One of the primary reasons why I never had any children was because, for as long as I can remember, the sound of a newborn baby crying has had the proverbial "nails on a chalkboard" effect on me. I can't understand why I have always had this reaction when other women don't seem to be bothered by it in the least. I will actually get up and LEAVE a room if I hear a newborn crying anywhere nearby because the sound of it so completely jangles my nerve endings and puts me on edge. Is there something WRONG with me that I consistently have such a reaction to this sound? Where is this so-called "maternal instinct" that ALL women are SUPPOSED to have??
Bridget, Easton, Pa.

Packing tape — that sound it makes as you unspool enough tape to seal the box. Crrrrrrrrrgh! So horrible. The sound of silverware being dropped in the utensil drawer. Clankclankclank! I can't sit anywhere near it in restaurants — although tables near the silverware station tend to be pretty crappy, so it may be Pavlovian.
Katherine, N.Y.

Got a weird question? Get a weird answer. E-mail The Body Odd with your comments or with a question for Mark and Dr. Billy.

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