Did you know that the sounds around you can affect how you perceive flavours? In this blog post, we dive into the fascinating world of “sonic seasoning” and how excessive noise can affect your sense of taste.  

Research suggests that background noise in lively eateries can interfere with our ability to fully perceive and appreciate flavours. This phenomenon, known as “sonic seasoning” or “auditory seasoning,” has captured the attention of scientists studying the connection between sound and taste perception. While this is still a work in progress, let’s take a closer look at what the research has uncovered so far.  

Taste Perception Under Different Noise levels:

Saltiness: High levels of background noise can reduce our perception of saltiness. The noise can mask the taste of salt, making food or drinks seem less salty than they are.

Fun fact: the noise levels in aeroplanes have been shown to cause this. Airlines are aware, and to stop their meals from tasting bland, their cooks add more salt to combat this. Ever wondered why you’re so thirsty after flying? It may not be the recycled air, but the salt in the supplied food.  

Bitterness: The presence of background noise can enhance the perception of bitterness. This is believed to be due to the brain’s heightened sensitivity to potential threats when exposed to noise. As a result, bitter flavours can be more pronounced and less pleasant in noisy environments.

Sweetness: The jury is still out on this one. Some studies suggest that excessive noise enhances the sense of sweetness, others say it minimises it.

Some researchers theorise that the change in the sensation of sweetness may be due to the influence of noise on participants’ arousal/stress levels which, in turn, can affect their taste perception. Others suggested this is because basic tastes often mutually suppress one another. For example, adding a small amount of salt to a glass of tonic water will make it taste sweeter, because salt suppresses the bitterness and hence releases the sweetness.   So, the exact mechanisms and extent of this effect are still being studied – so the jury is still out on sweetness.  

Umami and Sourness: Research on the effects of background noise on umami and sour tastes is relatively limited. However, some studies indicate that noise might have a similar masking effect on umami as it does on saltiness, making it harder to perceive. The impact on sourness appears to be variable and may depend on individual differences.

Food for thought:

Another theory is that excessive noise affects your sense of smell, which in turn affects your sense of taste.   A mature palate: It is important to note that individual sensitivity to taste and the specific characteristics of the background noise can influence these effects. Age, noise sensitivity and gender were found to influence relative food liking.   In one study by friend of the Ambient Menu, Mohammad Altamir, found that in a lively eatery;

  • Females had lower liking ratings of food than males.
  • Noise sensitivity was also negatively correlated with the relative liking of food with sensitive participants giving lower relative food liking ratings.
  • More mature participants also gave lower relative food liking ratings.

  Another study of his found that the type of background noise can affect the liking of food. Now there are no real surprises here, but;

  • The increase in the level of noise also decreased the liking of food regardless of the noise type.
  • Relaxing music increased the liking of food at 30 and 40 dBA relative to the background noise in the room.
  • Restaurant noise and road traffic noise decreased the liking of food at all levels.


Next time you’re dining out, pay attention to the background noise around you. It might be influencing your taste experience more than you realise. Excessive noise can dampen the perception of saltiness, enhance bitterness, and decrease the overall liking of food.  

As researchers continue to unravel the complexities of ‘sonic seasoning’, it is important to know that this is also entirely individual with different results being seen across genders and age groups.   So the bottom line is, understanding how background noise shapes YOUR individual taste perception will undoubtedly contribute to a more enjoyable dining experience. One person’s preferred background music can be considered as another’s unpleasant racket.  

So, finding a restaurant that suits you is now easier thanks to the Ambient Menu. If you want to savour the full range of flavours in your meal search for a quiet or low eatery.   Stay tuned for our reviews of serene dining establishments that prioritize a tranquil atmosphere, allowing your taste buds to truly shine.  

Bon Appetit  

Author: Laura Drexler

Author: Laura Drexler

Creator of Ambient Menu

Masters of Audiology, Bachelor of Health Science

Presenter: Audiology Australia SA Chapter Conference 2023, Flinders University 2023, SA Gerontology Conference SA 2022, Audiology Unchained (Independent Audiology Australia) 2023

Awards: Audiology Australia Internship Award, Flinders University Early Career Alumni Award, Help Awards AMP Healthcare Herp

Written for: SA Life, 50 So What, Grandparents Magazine    


  1. Alamir, M.A. and Hansen, K. (2021) ‘The effect of type and level of background noise on food liking: A laboratory non-focused listening test’, Applied Acoustics, 172, p. 107600. doi:10.1016/j.apacoust.2020.107600.
  2. Alamir, M.A. et al. (2020) ‘The effect of age, gender and noise sensitivity on the liking of food in the presence of background noise’, Food Quality and Preference, 84, p. 103950. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.103950.
  3. Guedes, D. et al. (2023) ‘Crossmodal interactions between audition and taste: A systematic review and narrative synthesis’, Food Quality and Preference, 107, p. 104856. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2023.104856.
  4. Spence, C. (2014) ‘Noise and its impact on the perception of food and drink’, Flavour, 3(1). doi:10.1186/2044-7248-3-9.  

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