Auditory-Tactile Synesthesia

Auditory-tactile synesthesia (or hearing-touch synesthesia) is a rare sensory phenomenon where the affected individual experiences tactile sensations in response to sound. This can manifest in myriad ways. Auditory stimuli might cause a tingling sensation (sometimes discomforting), a localized pressure or tension, or, what some describe more generally as a “feeling.” The stimuli can range from classic rock tunes to movie sound effects to the enveloping tones of the world around you. This Quora thread provides some insight into these experiences through the lens of those affected.

Man with hand to ear

Link Between Hearing and Touch

What causes hearing-touch synesthesia? As is true of most forms, we posit that these experiences are fundamentally human—i.e., all of us have some capacity for encountering them. To more deeply understand how this applies to hearing-touch, we can look at some research: A Neural Link Between Feeling and Hearing (2012) by Ro, Ellmore, and Beauchamp. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I recommend that you read the full text (it’s quite manageable). We’ll focus on a key takeaway.

In this paper, the authors “show that there are extensive ipsilateral connections between the primary auditory cortex and the primary and secondary somatosensory regions in the human cerebral cortex.” Let’s unpack that a bit. “Ipsilateral” means something that affects the same side of the body, and “somatosensory” refers to the part of the nervous system that encompasses the sense of touch. With that, we have a neurological basis for the idea that an auditory stimulus can result in a tactile sensation. But that’s only half of it. Most interestingly, the paper includes an analysis of a patient (SR) who has acquired auditory-tactile synesthesia. This analysis finds that these ipsilateral connections are exaggerated in this patient, which is perhaps just what we’d expect. How cool is that?

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)

If you’re familiar with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), you’ve likely already drawn the association here. This is an experience characterized chiefly by tingling on the surface of the skin, and like the phenomenon we’ve discussed so far, it can be caused by an audible stimulus. The experience, around which there has formed a vibrant online community, might be described as euphoric. Stimuli videos like the one below are plentiful on YouTube.

If you’re looking for a synesthesia test for this form and haven’t yet reached a conclusion based on the discussion so far, perhaps this is a place to start. How does your body respond to sounds like those in the video above? If you do experience a sensation, can you think of other circumstances where sound has triggered a similar feeling?


I leave you with a playlist from YouTube user Aaron, a sound-touch synesthete whose primary stimulus is music. As always, feel free to leave comments describing your experiences. If you’ve read some of our other posts, you’ll know that—in the majority of cases—you are not alone in the theme of your perceptions. How do you experience auditory-tactile synesthesia?

22 Comments on “Auditory-Tactile Synesthesia”

    • by Leah

    Thank you for this information! I thought I was the only one with this type!

    Warm regards,


    • by Cat

    I experience very mild ASMR, does this necessarily mean I have this type of synesthesia?

    Thanks in advance,


    • by Cat

    I experience very mild ASMR, does this necessarily mean I have this type of synesthesia? I really would like to know.

    Thanks in advance,


    • by Vini

    Is this why I hate high-pitched sounds? – I mean, some of them feel like my teeth are tingling and I have to take them off to clean and brush, but all I can do is to take the tingle by pressing one against the other as if I was chewing something; others are pain, like paper cuts, sharp stings and nausea (never loved the sopranos while I were in my choir days, especially when they were out of tune – they’re sharp, incisive, mean with stings) – I sweat sometimes for it feels so bad hearing it. Stuffy sounds bring such warmth sensations or even drowings, as if my mouth, throat, lungs were filled with water. I remember a person that made my body feel an electric current run through it as he spoke, and another that tickled, a lot, by just talking. “Oh, this girl talks like glass…” – it is easier to remember the feelings of a voice, on the first meeting, then the name of whoever has it. However, I don’t hear the girl talking when I look to any glass or touch it… But, her voice feels like it. And, probably, I wouldn’t hear the electric current guy if I bite an electric wire – I guess. Anyway, it is weird saying you don’t like a song because it feels like a bad texture or its stink burns your insides like sulphur, or makes you feel sad (even if it is a happy song – and you know that!).

    • by Sharon

    Travis, I am listening to the video and feeling relief (life long experiencing of sounds but never labeled as synesthesia) and I am intrigued by your experiences. I will take some time to explore this site.
    Beginning to explore the effects of sound sensitivity as a scientist I have a lot of question. E.g. can it be a significant reason for inflammation in the body, does it explain why some people have tinnitus and what are the benefits (It definitely makes me a more effective doctor).
    Any recommended starting places for additional research?
    Sharon Willingham MD

    • by Thea Ramsay

    I’m a blind, auditory/tactile synesthete, as well as emotion/tactile.
    I feel words as tactile objects. Some words are plastic, some metal, wood, or leather. But my favorite words are ‘th’ words. The soft ‘th’ like in ‘theater’ induces a feeling of ecstasy, as feathers touch my face, stroke my forehead, leg, or hand. The vocalized ‘th’ like in ‘that’ or ‘thee’ is fuzzy like pipe-cleaners. Hearing such sounds creates a sensation so real I react as if I’m being touched or stroked by these feathers, velvets, and furs.
    The feel of fur creates an ecstatic emotion, and the sound of the word ‘fur’, no matter its spelling or meaning, such as ‘fir’, induces an ecstatic cascade of furry hands petting the tar out of my face and forehead.
    It can be distracting, but it’s so lovely, I wish that everyone could feel like this. I wish I knew of foods or vitamin supplements that would increase it.
    If I lost my ‘textures’, especially the furry ones, life would feel a lot colder. The warm fuzzy sounds create a drugless euphoria I wish I could share with everyone, even my best friend, who swears she wouldn’t want it.

    • by alex

    Uh…okay. So is it a normal thing to to kinda induce a state of “tingles”? Also, is feeling warm in my back normal?


    • by Aleks

    Hi, I associate colour with shapes those colours are always the same shape. Is this synesthesia?

    • by Sailor Shay

    I have auditory-tactile synesthesia, which often gives me a visceral shock response to sound, especially to unexpected or random sounds. Therefore, I found the “Soothing vocals & sounds ASMR” video overwhelming. I could only play a short clip of it before I had to stop.
    Many times, I feel sounds as small or greater explosions, electrical shocks, sharp thumps, and sometimes akin to a fetus’s flutter in my head or other places. Microphone feedback can make my entire body shriek inside and my skin feel like it’s buzzing.
    I’ve only recently realized this is not normal. Also, that it explains why I so love soothing cello music.
    Thanks for this info. It’s been quite helpful!

    • by Ella

    I just found out that I have synesthesia a few months ago. Up until then, I thought everyone experienced life the same way I do. The more I’ve read about it, though, the more I realize that auditory-tactile is not as common as other forms. I have a few different forms of synesthesia, but this one definitely is the weirdest for me. When certain people talk I get a weird buzz in the back of my head and it shoots down my spine. Depending on the person, I feel a texture on my skin. For instance, one lady’s voice feels exactly like a shelled, hard-boiled egg on my arm. It isn’t uncomfortable or annoying, but it is very distracting. Not everyone’s voice does this to me. So far, I can think of five or six people whose voices I can feel. One woman feels like flower petals, another like cooked ham, another like grass, etc. All of them cause the buzzing in my head and spine, though. I’ve never felt two voices the same way before. Everyone’s voice has a different physical feel. I wish there was more information on this as it is a strange sensation and I don’t understand why I can’t feel every person’s voice. Sometimes the feeling is so strong I can’t even think to process what they are saying to me. Synesthesia is definitely a fascinating thing and its a blessing and a curse to have it! (more blessing than a curse, though)

    • by Terry

    I think a really good example of Auditory-Tactile Synesthesia for older people would be their reaction to hearing nails on a chalkboard. A lot of people describe “unpleasant” physical sensations like tingling or pain running up and down their spine from it. I’m not sure younger people would understand the reference though; as a lot of them grew up with white-boards in the classroom instead of chalkboards. Anyone that I’ve talked to that has heard that sound usually have a slight reaction, just from the memory of it if it was negative. Those that the sound didn’t bother still didn’t get it though.

    • by Sonia Shanzer

    If i hear cardboard rubbing against cardboard i get goose bumps n i feel grossed out like blood running cold. It happens if i rub my hand on cardboard, news paper and chalkboard. But if someone else rubs them.i get goose bumps too. What is that. It happens when other people file their nails also. But i can file mine without bein grossed our

    • by Rachael Sushames

    Thanks for the information. I am a synesthesiast, I see colours, patterns pictures, imagery movement (colour and shapes dancing) from music. Singular notes have their own colour, chords have their own singular colour but a melody/song has different colour formations, depending the formation of all the instruments, the melody, blending of notes, pitch, beat, tempo, vocals, harmonys, tones, word pronounciation, the feelings and emotions omitted from the vocals and music. One song performed my various artists/bands even in the exact same key will have a totally different colour formations and totally different images because the sound will be different and the performers emotions omitted from the music are personal, creating their own different vibe. I also feel very strong physical sensation from music, from tingling in various places in my body, spasms, the feeling of various physical things touching my skin, being held tight, to feeling absolutely nothing, painful touches to comforting and gentle touches. My moods, emotions, health and thoughts are strongly affected and my energy levels too. Numbers have colours as do letters and formations of letters (words). Feelings have colours too. All environmental and industrial sounds have colours too. Touch has colours, smell has colours. All my sensory funtions have colour attached to every single sense used. Story’s and conversations have pictures or images attached. My senses and brain are over active and colourful

    • by hi

    certain songs or even sounds in music give me the same tingling sensation as asmr does but it seems to only work when i use headphones. it doesn’t have to be binaural sounds or anything but it just doesn’t work without headphones! it could be due to the fact that i’m basically using my laptop speakers which are no good lol but it only happens when listening to music not as some people commented when hearing words or listening to someone speaking.i have had these experiences before knowing about asmr and they were always pretty intense but i’m not sure if its actually synesthesia

    • by T. Gardner

    Not sure why but I found the video very annoying and had to turn it off. On the other hand ever since I was a child I’ve had a strong visceral response to minor chords in songs. It’s taken me 50 years to finally begin to get answers as to why. That’s how I ended up here. Thank you for the info!

    • by Anonymous

    Hey! I’m an auditory-tactile synesthete. I think the experience is different for a lot of people. I personally feel tingling, trickling, texture, temperature and pressure in music. It’s a wonderful feeling I wouldn’t want to live without.

    • by Sarah

    Hello, I was wondering if I could have some thoughts!

    My entire life, I have definitley had problems with sensory things, especially sounds. One of the biggest things that I cannot explain is that I can feel sounds. I am a musician, but I cannot think in the same way others do. Each note of each pitch has a certain sound and I’m really bad at explaining this. But I can physically feel it in my fingers, sort of if I was listening to the vibrations. When I was learning the notes, I couldn’t identify them by sound, but I can identify them by how they feel. I have had ear tests (everything came back normal), and I don’t have anything that could influence this.

    I am not sure if this is similar, but even tiny sounds have massive reactions in me. Certain sounds cause me to feel nauseous, and I tend to … sorry this is badly explained, but I feel all the sounds within my body, as if it is in my chest, or my arm. Sometimes I get overloaded because of how much I am feeling.

    Do you think it could possibly be this, or something else? I know there are quite a few sensory-processing thingies… Thank you for reading if you did! I see this is a somewhat old post 😛

    • by Deb

    Fluorescent lights bug me. I can hear it humming. I don’t know how to explain it but at times it’s painful and scratchy.

  • During a conversation with my audiologist she mentioned auditory-tactile-synesthesia. Yrs of hearing aids I had learned to redirect the sensations to my finger tips. A high pitch flute is to my ear drum what a paper cut is to someone else’s tip of their finger.

    • by Donna cabral

    I feel sounds kinda like a tuning fork would , vibrating, sometimes sharp , sometimes smooth and soft. I had an MRI done this week . Afterward I had a tremendous head and spine ache and my insides felt like jellow quivering. I looked up side effects of MRi and every site I looked said there were none. Hahaha all in my head

    • by Michelle

    Wow, I’m super thankful to have come across this thread. I thought I’ve gone mad! A couple years ago I had a near fatal accident. Ever since and among other issues, I physically feel certain sounds. It’s incredibly uncomfortable, even painful at times, like I’ve had a powerful electric shock. I feel nauseated around humming noises, too. I wonder if there’s a way to make it stop?!?

    • by Sari

    Interesting. Nice to know I’m not a freak. I experience this all the time. I thought something was wrong. It’s almost painful at night, if I hear any sound as I’m relaxing, I feel it run through my body and skin. It has alarmed me most of my life. I would tell people I can feel sounds, and they’d just look at me like I was nuts. A sharp sudden sound will actually sting. Recently, over the last 8 years, it’s become quite honed. I can feel things far away now, larger of course, like a train, or plane. Closer things, particularly animals or nature sounds, I can feel then focus on where it’s coming from. It’s kinda cool.

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