What Is A Deafening Silence?

Written By Nathan Chilcott

The term ‘deafening silence’ seems a little contradictory. After all, it needs to be extremely loud for something to be deafening.

Of course, the result of an extremely loud noise, such as a gunshot or explosion, can cause deafness. This ruptures the eardrum or can damage the bones in your middle ear. Deafness would be immediate and likely to be permanent.

So Deafening Silence Is Simply Being Unable To Hear Anything?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean you’ve gone deaf, although it may feel that way. There are times in life where you find that the silence is intense. It can hit you like a brick wall; it’s when you become aware that there is absolutely no noise.

Read more: You Need to Know about the Loudest Sound Ever

Interestingly being registered as deaf doesn’t mean you can’t hear any noise.

You’ve probably already experienced a deafening silence. They are surprisingly common. Of course, there are other types of silence, such as when the air is still and few sounds that can make an eerie silence. But this is not the same thing.

The Source Of Deafening Silence

A deafening silence is the absence of sound, but it’s the noise that comes before it that really makes it deafening. You can only appreciate the silence because of the noise beforehand.

For example, a jet plane screams overhead on a quiet evening. It’s close enough to you, almost to deafen you. Your mind struggles to take in all the noises and process them, and then they are followed by nothing. At that point, your mind is working to understand what it is hearing. The complete absence of sound after a loud noise is known as deafening silence, although it should be referred to as confused silence.

Adapting To Change

The human body is exceptionally good at adapting to changes. For example, adjust the volume on your stereo, and your ears adjust; the new volume level is considered normal. The reason for this is because your body is placing sound into context with background sounds. It adapts according to your perception of changes between the background and foreground signs.

Read more: Thalassophobia: Understanding the Fear of Deep Water

But, if there is a lot of noise and then nothing, your body needs to work out what has happened. Temporarily the nothing seems worse than silence; that’s a deafening silence.

It’s Not Just Sound

You may be surprised to discover that this applies to all your senses. They can all be overloaded by a specific incident, transforming the balance between the foreground and the background. That causes temporary issues.

For example, not seeing stars in the daytime is simply our eyes recognizing the brightness of the sunlight and adjusting accordingly. The stars are still there.

The Bass Line

High-pitched sounds are more likely to cause hearing issues as they affect the cells inside your ears and can damage them from overuse. But, a deafening silence can cause you to seem deaf without damaging your hearing.

Technically all silence is the same. But in reality, your perception of the noise, or lack of noise, can transform a quiet period into a terrifying deafening silence!