Auralism is the name given to sexual arousal caused by sounds. Most commonly, that includes listening to music, but it can also include other sounds like voices or the sounds of sex itself, even the sound of others having sex. Listening to others have sex can be considered a form of voyeurism (Taylor, 2018). Still, it's much more specific than that because it's limited to particular kinds of sexual activity and doesn't include watching other people have sex at all.
Is auralism a kink?
Some people seem to assume that simply because you get turned on by something like music, sexy voices, or the sound of sex, it must be a kink. However, many things are arousing for some reason that isn't kinks or fetishes; it's simply human nature. In other words, if someone gets aroused listening to The Star-Spangled Banner, they're probably not necessarily turned on by flags in general; they like what that song sounds like. That doesn't mean being turned on by sound necessarily makes someone into an audiophile with an auralism fetish; it's probably more of an example of how different things can sexually arouse us at other times.
Does everyone get aroused by sound? Not necessarily. For most people, being stimulated or aroused by sound doesn't happen all that often (or is so rare as to count barely). It might only turn them on when it involves something particular and turns their minds toward certain types of sexual fantasies. And even then, not every person who feels that arousal actually feels desire or gets sexually excited. There's also no one way to turn on someone aurally (which is one reason why it's hard to pin down precisely what auralism is); different kinds of music will turn some people on while others might feel nothing at all.
Why do people find it arousing?
The truth is there's no right way to react to something that turns you on—so there's no need to feel weird about your turn-ons! Maybe it reminds you of certain events you've attended or places you had been, or maybe they just like certain kinds of sounds, but if what you're doing feels good, it doesn't matter why. For example, many people find ASMR relaxing and use it as a sleep aid. Others find that listening to soft voices can help calm their anxiety and relieve stress. (After all, physiology is similar to being tense and turned on.) But whether an ASMR video can make people sexually aroused depends on how much a person's sexual response cycle is activated by sound alone. Some people respond more strongly than others.
However, for most people, only one phase of their sexual response cycle is activated at any given time. Furthermore, our culture tends to associate erotic sounds with foreplay rather than primary stimulation. This means that even someone primarily aroused by sound may not necessarily be physically stimulated during ASMR because so much of their physical arousal has been culturally conditioned into something else. In other words, people won't necessarily get hard nipples from videos involving whispering because nipples have become trained to react only under specific contexts. In addition, some respond differently to sex noises than sex visuals, which is generally why fewer people experience physical arousal from hearing aural stimuli than they do from looking at visual stimuli (Taylor, 2018).
What types of sounds can stimulate it?
Depending on your sensitivity, any number of sounds can stimulate auralism arousal. For example, many who experience ASMR claim that sounds like whispering or people having a small monologue about their day will give them chills and help them relax. But even more extreme types of sound are known to cause sexual arousal in some listeners; for example, some have reported being aroused by loud crinkling bags and people eating loudly. Moreover, there's a large amount of overlap between those with ASMR-triggering stimuli and those who experience pleasure through binaural sounds, which are played when headphones are placed over each ear. This can be sexually arousing; it's referred to as audio pornography among its practitioners.
Are there people that don't get triggered by sounds?: Because most people begin experiencing ASMR at puberty, some individuals assume that you need to be sensitive to stimulus from an early age to benefit from aural stimulation. On top of making assumptions about what ages certain stimuli affect individuals best, many assume that only certain sounds work for certain types of ears (specifically music). However, no studies have been done yet on whether personal preference or other factors impact how likely someone is to become aroused through listening to sound. It could very well be possible!
How should I bring it up in bed?
Okay, so you want to try some new stuff in bed, and you've heard about ASMR. What do you do? The first thing to remember is that all bodies are different, and just because something didn't work for your partner doesn't mean it won't work for you. For example, while some people enjoy having their hair brushed as part of ASMR foreplay, many others don't care for it at all. Some like gentle back massages, while others find that irritating and distracting. This means that if your partner isn't down with sharing an ASMR turn-on with you, there's nothing wrong with telling them what excites you about those sounds—and then trying to incorporate it into your foreplay routine anyway!
Remember, communication is everything. Explain to your partner why auralism turns you on, or ask them if they have any suggestions. If they're not keen on hearing heavy breathing in bed (no judgment here!), tell them exactly how talking dirty works for you: what words get you going and how soft or hard your ideal voice is in a given situation which can be very erotic. Your partner will learn what drives your engine and hopefully be more willing to play along too. That said, one person's kink might not be another person's kinky pleasure zone, so there may come a time when that doesn't fly anymore either.
Do I think my partner will be aroused by it too?
Most kinks and fetishes appeal to people because they help stimulate sexual thoughts. For example, someone obsessed with high heels may get aroused when wearing them or watching others wear them. Someone with an ASMR kink might enjoy listening to ASMR videos featuring sex sounds while they masturbate. In either case, it's all about arousal. The only way to know for sure what makes you and yours tick is through trial and error. Pay attention to any changes in their mood or libido after exposing them to just the sound of erotic content, but remember—not everyone will be turned on by it.
Some people don't want to try new things out of fear of judgment from their partners; some like having those kinks separate from lovemaking, and some aren't willing to try new kinks in the bedroom just yet! We can keep educating each other until we create a world where everyone respects everyone else's fantasies! Just remember: always speak up if something doesn't work for you—and if you're feeling pressured into doing something that makes you uncomfortable, assert yourself!
You deserve good treatment, too; respect works both ways.
Play safe, my friends.
Taylor, J. (2018). Sound desires. The Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness, 275–294. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199793525.013.94