Sound Before Birth: Fetal hearing and the auditory environment of the womb

Henriques, Julian F.; Jauniaux, Eric; Thibaut de Maisiers, Aude and Gélat, Pierre. 2022. Sound Before Birth: Fetal hearing and the auditory environment of the womb. In: John L. Drever and Andrew Hugill, eds. Aural Diversity. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 9781032024998 [Book Section] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

Babies hear differently, certainly when they are inside the womb before birth. This is because eardrums are designed for airborne sound waves and don’t work the waters of the amniotic fluid of the uterus. The fetus hears by bone conduction to the middle ear. This chapter describes some of the challenges of researching the sounds available for the fetus to hear in the last three months of pregnancy when his or her sense of hearing is fully developed. One reason why fetal hearing is important to understand is clinical. We need to know what sound is available in a normal pregnancy so that premature babies in the neonatal hospital wards can be better protected from auditory stress. The research aims to contribute to the design of a new generation of incubators that take sound into account. Fetal hearing may also be important psychologically and philosophically. As our brains are physiologically shaped by sound – the only sensory information available before birth – does this mean we have a primary sonic identity? What might such sonic identity tell us about our relationship with the world after the moment of birth?

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Media, Communications and Cultural Studies > Topology Research Unit


23 September 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

15 Jul 2021 12:29

Last Modified:

09 May 2022 10:47


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