Music is an art that has long been used to soothe the soul and calm the mind. It is known to have a positive and immediate effect on one’s mental state, lifting them up and elevating their mood within just a few seconds.
Even science backs the fact that listening to relaxing melodies reduces stress and depression, releasing feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Indeed, music goes straight from the ears to the heart.
But just like any other thing, excessive music too can cause harm to both the body and the mind. Even today, many people remain unaware of the health risks imposed by long-term exposure to music and musical instruments. For the sake of your knowledge and awareness, we have compiled a list of some common music-related health risks people encounter.
1. Hearing Loss
Perhaps the most common and obvious side effect of excessive music is hearing loss. Listening to music at high volumes causes the hair cells in our cochlea (the organ responsible for hearing) to bend excessively. This, in turn, damages the hair cells and leads to hearing loss.
The extent of this damage varies from person to person and can usually be treated, but in some cases, this damage is irreversible. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.1 billion young people are at risk of losing their hearing due to exposure to loud music.
Another hearing disorder caused by long-term exposure to harsh sounds is Tinnitus – characterized by an annoying, constant ‘ringing sound’ in the ears. This can happen from listening to music through headphones or earbuds at high volume or from being in a place with loud music, like a rock concert.
The noise damages the tiny hair cells in the inner ear, which perform the vital function of transmitting sound signals to the brain. This damage can cause a person to hear ringing, buzzing, humming, or other irritating noises in their ears, even when there is no external sound source.
Diplacusis, or binaural diplacusis, is a disorder of the auditory nerve where a person experiences two different pitches for the same sound when presented to each ear separately. This condition is likely caused when constant exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and other health conditions damage the cochlea (an integral part of the inner ear).
Diplacusis may also result from improper auditory nerve function, which carries signals from the ear to the brain, usually caused by tumors, head injuries, and other conditions. Lastly, the condition may also arise due to problems in the brain that interfere with how it processes sound. This can be due to stroke, dementia, and other neurological conditions.
Another relatively common hearing risk people face is hyperacusis – a condition in which everyday sounds feel much stronger than usual. The most common symptom of hyperacusis is a feeling of discomfort or pain when exposed to certain sounds, particularly those that are loud. This can make everyday activities such as talking on the phone, going out in public, or even being around family and friends difficult or impossible. In some cases, the symptoms may be so severe that they interfere with work or school. In addition to the physical symptoms, people with hyperacusis often experience anxiety, depression, and social isolation.
While the research behind the cause of this illness is still ongoing, it is thought that hyperacusis may be caused by damage to the inner ear, which can lead to an increased sensitivity to sound. This damage might be due to exposure to loud noise (sudden and intense or prolonged and lower in volume), medications, head trauma, or viral infections.
Like almost any other thing in life, music is good for the human body and mind but only when taken in the right dosage. The ear is a delicate organ, and when people try to push its limits by listening to loud music for long periods, they risk developing music-related health risks.