Here’s what you might hear after you die:
- You may hear the people around you
- You might hear someone announcing the time of death
- Research shows that you might see things too, either in the room or by having a ‘vision’ of an afterlife
- Hearing is said to be the final sense to disappear
Are you curious about what happens when you die? It’s one of those experiences you might wonder about, but you won’t know for sure what happens until your time arrives. However, research indicates that you might retain your sense of hearing when you die – at least for a while.
Dr Sam Parnia works in resuscitation research in New York, USA. He’s researching what happens in people who have gone into cardiac arrest but pulled through following medical treatment.
When your heart stops and can no longer send blood flowing to your brain, you are deemed to be dead. That is modern medicine’s definition of death. You’d think that would mean you couldn’t hear, yet the research suggests something quite different.
In this article, I’m going to share some of the research findings and go into detail about whether you can hear when you die. You’ll discover what that means for you and for those you love if something should happen.
You may hear what is happening around you after you die
The research found that some were unaware of anything. A loss of consciousness was followed by waking up sometime later and being told of what happened, i.e. that you had a cardiac arrest, and the medical staff succeeded with CPR.
However, you might experience something else, as the researchers discovered. You might hear:
- Doctors and nurses talking around you
- The noise of life-saving equipment being used
- People talking in medical terms you would not otherwise know
Many experiences related information that would not be known to the average person. Names of drugs used, for example, wouldn’t be familiar to you or me.
You can search for plenty of personal experiences shared online, often in forums, that reveal more about individual experiences.
You might be able to see your surroundings too
Hearing isn’t the only sense that regularly seems to work in these situations. Many of those participating in the research spoke of seeing things too.
The most common scenario is being able to see your body being worked on as medical staff try to resuscitate you. This usually happens from a vantage point high above the scene, in the corner of the room.
Given the information that has been gleaned from studies done on this topic, it could well be that you would see things you wouldn’t know were there when you were lying down on the gurney.
This has occurred in many instances, with reports of seeing items and confirming their presence to the medical staff in the room afterwards. It has led to Dr Parnia using headphones to play sounds to each patient in cardiac arrest. He also displays images on the ceiling.
The idea is that if you were in clinical death and had awareness during this time, you could relay what you heard and saw. This information would then be compared to the sounds and images used during that time.
Everything is kept secret until the research has ended, so no one could accidentally reveal the images and sounds to someone, thereby jeopardizing the research and results.
The research suggested you might hear or see other things
By this, I mean things other than those that would be logical for the situation someone was in. For example, if you are in a hospital room, you would expect to see the room around you – the furniture, the medical team, the equipment, and so on.
However, you might hear or see other things as well– things that would be out of place for the situation you are in.
There are threads on Reddit and similar forums where stories of ‘dying’ are shared. I’ve noticed several common things mentioned, such as:
- Bright lights
- A feeling of calm and peace
- Hearing the surroundings fade away
- The sensation of going through a tunnel
- Seeing loved ones who have already died
- Hearing the time of death announced
It’s possible you might experience one or more of these elements or none. It depends on the circumstances and your individual experience.
One Redditor in that thread spoke of seeing his long-dead brother following a near-fatal motorcycle accident. Everything else about the scene seemed normal given the crash and its aftermath – except for the brother, who shouldn’t have been there.
Death comes in two distinct stages
I think of death as the moment when life ends. You probably do too. Yet the medical profession views death in two stages:
- Clinical death
- Biological death
The two stages occur in that order. You might have heard of someone being termed as clinically dead before making a seemingly miraculous recovery. This would be correct as it can happen.
However, no one would return from biological death. Any stories you hear about the afterlife or things that were seen and heard during ‘death’ were experienced after clinical death and before biological death occurred.
Here’s how the two stages differ:
- Clinical death happens when your heart stops and you stop breathing… however, your brain is still alive, even though activity is minimal
- Biological death happens when your brain dies
There are perhaps four minutes, maybe one or two more if you are fortunate, between the two stages if nothing is done to prevent biological death from occurring. CPR, if successful, can prevent you from progressing from stage one to stage two.
That time can be extended if you are in cold water, or your body temperature has dropped for another reason, perhaps because of hypothermia. This slows the body processes and may keep you from entering biological death for longer, allowing more time for revival to occur.
Of course, the AWARE study published by Dr Parnia in 2014 clearly only looked at cases where clinical death had occurred. You and I do not know for sure what happens when we move through to biological death – a state from which you cannot return.
The study proved that it was possible to know what was happening around you at and after the point of clinical death. However, since the brain was still alive at that stage, it would make sense that your senses would be intact too.
You may be one of the people with no memory of the event. However, you might equally and vividly recall what you could hear and see around you, just as many did when giving evidence that helped with the research.
The senses go at different times if death is more gradual
So far, I’ve covered scenarios involving people who have been injured or fallen ill and have ‘died’ and been brought back. In some cases, especially where a terminal illness is involved, death approaches more slowly.
Neither you nor I can be certain of which senses remain when consciousness is lost… unless you or I are approaching the end ourselves. However, it is thought that hearing is the final sense to be lost when death is close.
There would likely come a point when that is lost. Even if you go on to an afterlife following bodily death, you might be able to hear your loved ones nearby talking to you before that moment is reached.
This means someone could hear when near the end
So far, I have covered the idea of what you might be able to hear when you die. You can see there is a difference between clinical and biological death, too.
But what if you are with someone who is in the last stages of life? What should you expect then, and how might this new knowledge help you navigate this period?
I know from experience of being with a loved one at the end of an illness that there can be some awareness of what is going on around them. Talking may no longer be possible, but I know that other things are, such as the squeeze of a hand, for instance.
It is best to assume an individual can still hear even if there are no other signs of being aware of what is happening. Your words might be the last thing heard in that situation.
There are online guides on what to do and what to expect when someone is dying, and you are with that individual at the end. These are good to read through as they make you more aware of what to expect, so you can prepare for the experience.
Hearing lasts longer than you may think
Perhaps you find this reassuring. Research continues into what you might expect when you reach this stage. It’s fascinating to dip into, as I have found.