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The Brown Note Frequency Isn’t Real, But Sound Effects Our Bodies

There isn’t a frequency that will make you lose control of your bowels, but noise does play a role in our health.

By Sara Novak
May 8, 2024 1:00 PMMay 8, 2024 4:12 PM
woman covering ears with pillow
(Credit: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock)


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The brown note, sometimes called the brown frequency, is an infrasonic noise frequency that has a particular effect. Hence the name: If you play a note at this very low frequency, it’s known to make you lose your bowels. That’s right, a sound frequency that causes you to run to the potty. Only, it’s not true. 

According to experts, there is currently no frequency known to man that will make you poop. But some may ask, what is the brown note?

The brown note myth likely started as an internet hoax that somehow gathered steam and took off because it’s kind of funny, and no one knew for sure whether it was true.

While it’s not real and it does not make you go to the bathroom, says Matthew Wright, a professor of acoustics at the University of Southampton in Southampton, United Kingdom, “the sound is supposedly lower than the sounds that we can hear.”

Humans can hear sounds in a frequency range from about 20 Hz to 20 kHz. We might be able to sense sounds that are at an extremely low frequency at a high enough volume or amplitude, but we can’t hear them. 

Read More: What Is, Scientifically, the Most Annoying Sound?

How Sound Frequency Affects the Body

Still, it is true that frequency, or how fast something is vibrating, can impact us, says Wright. Vibrations can, in some cases, even harm us, but they can’t make us lose control of our bowels.

For example, if you’re using a power tool and it’s vibrating for long enough, it can damage your fingers, causing a condition called “vibration white finger,” changes in the fingers that turn the skin white and are known to cause nerve damage and numbness. According to an article published in the British Journal of Surgery, it most commonly occurs in workers who constantly use vibrating tools.

Sea sickness is another human response to vibration; though we can’t hear it, we can feel it. And even more familiar is the idea that the volume or amplitude of sound can damage our hearing by injuring the cells and membranes of the cochlea in the ear. While frequency is how fast sound waves move, amplitude or volume is the strength of those sound waves. 

Read More: The Biology of Stress in Your Body

The Calming Effects of Sound Frequency Healing

The idea that sound and music can be relaxing and even uplifting is accurate, says Geoff Leventhall, an acoustic consultant from Surrey, U.K., but it’s not true that a single frequency can be tuned to heal the body.

“Sound can make you relax, and it can agitate the nervous system,” says Leventhall.

Research into the healing power of sound through practices like using Tibetan healing bowls is lacking, but there is some thought that it can increase well-being.

A September 2016 study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tibetan singing bowls “may be a feasible low-cost low technology intervention for reducing feelings of tension, anxiety and depression, and increasing spiritual well-being.”

Read More: ASMR of Nature: How Natural Sounds Can Lower Stress and Improve Anxiety and Depression

Can Sounds Like the Brown Note Induce Stress?

Conversely, certain sounds can be distressing to the ears. Fingernails on a chalkboard, for example, can be incredibly stressful to certain individuals. This happens because the sound seems to excite and distress connections in the auditory cortex. 

But going potty, not so much. Wright says that if there were a frequency that could help people release their bowels, it would be a huge success. Imagine all of the millions of formerly constipated individuals who could use this simple tool to get things moving. No more laxatives or pills or chalky drink mixes, instead, listen to this frequency, and you’re all set.

“We would all know about it if only it were true,” says Wright. 

Read More: The Ways Animals React to Music May Surprise You

Article Sources

Our writers at Discovermagazine.com use peer-reviewed studies and high-quality sources for our articles, and our editors review for scientific accuracy and editorial standards. Review the sources used below for this article:

Sara Novak is a science journalist based in South Carolina. In addition to writing for Discover, her work appears in Scientific American, Popular Science, New Scientist, Sierra Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, and many more. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia. She's also a candidate for a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University, (expected graduation 2023).

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