Published on August 5th, 2019 | by James Drew


Do you know what the Sound of Drowning sounds like?

Bathing season is in full swing – and with itdrowning season. Contrary to popular belief, the signs of drowning do not usually include flailing arms and cries for help; people typically drown in silence. To shed light on this common misconception and to engage more people to act in near-drowning situations, Trygg-Hansa, a leading insurance company in Sweden, has created a chilling simulation of a drowning using the latest ASMR technology – and it doesn’t sound like you think.


Contrary to popular belief, drowning victims usually make small movements and discrete sounds that can be difficult for passersby to detect, if they don’t know what they should be looking out for. Trygg-Hansa has created ‘The Sound of Drowning’, a soundtrack of a simulated drowning intended to raise awareness and educate people on what an actual drowning could sound like.

Unlike in the movies, drowning usually happens fast and quietly. We’d like to make sure more people know what to look out for, and how to properly use one of our 80 000 lifebuoys, so that we, together, can save more lives,” said Joseph Borenstein, head of PR and Media Relations at Trygg-Hansa.

The soundtrack was developed in collaboration with Andreas Claesson, a paramedic with a PhD in drowning and working at the Center for Resuscitation Science, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

There are many misconceptions about drowning. One of the most common and one of the most dangerous misconceptions is that drowning is always accompanied by screaming and splashing, as it causes many people to miss the opportunity to take action in an emergency. I hope this initiative can help educate people on how an actual drowning can happen and teach them to keep an eye out for the real distress signals,” says Andreas Claesson.

ASMR sound of drowning
The soundtrack was recorded using Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) technology, a relatively new and globally trending skill, describing a calm, pleasurable feeling often accompanied by a tingling sensation. ASMR soundtracks often include whispers, white noise, scratching, rustling and crinkling, which are then amplified to create an audio stimulus.

A passerby on the beach or dock rarely perceives a near-drowning situation as a panicky and noisy emergency, as it is often perceived as nothing more than quiet background noise and that’s the reason we chose to simulate the sound of drowning using ASMR. Listening to the sound of drowning may make you feel uncomfortable, but it doesn’t sound like one would expect – it’s a fairly low-key sound that’s easy to miss,” said Joseph Borenstein.


The false, destructive conception of drowning
A new study conducted by Novus on behalf of Trygg-Hansa, revealed that there are many misconceptions about how to identify a near-drowning situation. “Flailing arms” was cited by 43 per cent of the respondents as a sign of drowning, while 39 per cent responded, “cries for help,” 38 per cent “splashing” and 27 per cent “screaming”. Only one in five (19 per cent) answered correctly that none of these options are common signs of someone drowning. 

When drowning, the body’s instinct is to try and stay above the surface in any way possible, and fully focus on maintaining breathing, which in turn makes it hard to give distress signals and cry for help. In fact, common signs of drowning are that the distressed person treads water, arms are by their side, their head is leaning back, far into the water, and they’re trying to breathe through their mouth at the surface. These signs are subtle and can be easy to miss – so put down your phone at the beach this summer and keep an eye on each other in the water instead,” says Andreas Claesson.



Common signs of drowning, are that the person in distress:

  • Treads water, upright, with their arms by their side;
  • can’t give distress signals. Their body instinctively presses their arms down by their sides in order to push the head and mouth above the surface;
  • is unable to call for help. It’s difficult to call out when panicking, hyperventilating or holding your breath;
  • doesn’t hold their mouth above the surface long enough to have time to both breathe and/or cry for help, and;
  • can’t control their arm movements to grab a lifebuoy, move forward or wave for help.

How to save someone using a lifebuoy:

The best lifesaving tip is to stay dry; don’t jump into the water if you’re not comfortable with it. A helping hand from dry land or the dock is always safer than life saving in the water.

  1. Remove: Remove the lifebuoy from its stand. Pull off the rope container with the line inside and put the container on the ground and put your foot on it.
  2. Alert emergency services: Get the attention of others who can alert 112 before using the lifebuoy.
  3. Aim: Don’t forget that the lifebuoy is heavy, so don’t aim directly at the person you are saving, aim next to them
  4. Throw: Hold the buoy alongside your body and throw it with both hands in a “swinging” motion. Hold a loop of rope with your front hand to make it easier to control.
  5. Pull in: Pull it in once the person in the water has grabbed onto the lifebuoy. If the person in the water can’t reach the buoy, pull it back in using the line and throw it again.

If the person is unconscious and showing irregular or no signs of breathing, you should initiate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Place one hand on the person’s forehead and three fingers under their chin, and then tilt their head backwards. Administer five rescue breaths mouth-to-mouth until you see the chest rising. A lot of water may come out of the person’s airways. Continue the CPR by alternating 30 chest compressions and two breaths, on the beach, on dry land or on the dock. The rib cage should be compressed by at least 4cm on small children, 5cm on older children and at least 5cm on adults. Apply the compressions in the middle of the ribcage at a rate of 100 – 120 per minute. If there is a defibrillator nearby, get it and use it.

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