What we know about the sound environment in the womb is quite limited. But we can make some approximations.
In humans, we know that the fetus develops the faculty of hearing by 24 weeks (six months of gestation) as the middle and inner ear are formed. By 26 weeks the fetus responds to sound stimulation with an increased heart rate, indicating that they are sensitive to sound.
However, the eardrum of the outer ear doesn’t function in the amniotic fluid of the womb. So the sound waves reaching the middle ear do so via the skull. The whole surface of the fetus’ body is sensitive to vibrations transmitted through the amniotic fluid.
This is something we can replicate by listening to sound underwater. Underwater we all hear through the skull and entire body surface – not our outer ear. Sound is transmitted 4 x faster than in the air and across a much broader frequency range. You can actually try this in London by going to a Wet Sounds event.
Julian and Aude did. Eyes, closed and with their ears underwater, listening to nature sounds and choral music diffused from the bottom of the swimming pool, they found that sounds have no specific location in space – they appear to come from every direction. More intriguingly, with plugs protecting their ears, and thus a heightened sensitivity to their own heartbeats, there seemed to be no difference between inner and outside sounds – no sense of self as separate from one’s acoustic environment.
If consciousness arises from a sense of separateness, what if the Sonic Womb project could return a listener to some kind of pre-consciousness state?