Music: How What You Listen To and How You Listen To It Affects You

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

Adults often complain that teenagers are noisy and loud (see last week’s article). Since teenagers are also often said to be sullen and quiet around their elders, clearly the noisiness and loudness referred to is more well-known as music among teens.

Although everyone has different tastes in music, nearly everyone likes at least one genre of music and for many, music is a part of daily life.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing; it all depends on what you’re listening to and how you’re listening to it.
How the music you’re listening to affects you
The lyrics to your favourite song might subconsciously encourage you to live according to the values implied. If you listen to songs that promote positive behaviours and feelings, you’re likely benefitting from rocking out to your favourite tunes occasionally. However, if the songs you’re listening to are indirectly promoting drug and alcohol use, the adoption of degrading sexual attitudes, and other teenage no-no’s that leave teenagers’ parents stricken with worry, studies show that you are more likely to engage and to engage earlier in those behaviours, regardless of several other important influencing factors.
There are also benefits associated with music itself, not just with the lyrics that accompany it. Music has been shown to have positive effects on kids’ intelligence. When music is played in study halls, students’ reading comprehension increases. Preschool children who are exposed to music through singing lessons and weekly keyboard lessons scored 80% higher than other children an assembly-based spatial intelligence test in one study. University students could also benefit from listening to music–their spatial intelligence scores have also been shown to increase when they listen to ten minutes of Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos regularly. Note that spatial intelligence isn’t the same as general intelligence. Mozart’s music may be brilliant, but listening to it won’t affect your overall IQ. Still though, increasing spatial intelligence is impressive enough. Since I have gotten lost in Champlain Mall before, I could probably use some more of it personally–I now have Mozart playing in the background, thanks to Youtube (look for the Roe and Anderson Sonata for Two Pianos video).
How how the way you listen to music affects you
Turning the volume up, up, and higher still on your i-pod is linked to hearing loss. This is true even if you’re young. Your grandparents soon won’t be the only ones in your family constantly asking “What did you say? I can’t hear you.” if you pump it louder too often. The rule of thumb for headphones and volume is that music shouldn’t be emanating from your headphones so loudly that a person standing next to you can hear what you’re listening to.
Sources:
http://www.menc.org/resources/view/an-intelligence-view-of-music-education
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/118/2/e430.full?submit.y=12&submit.x=97&gca=118%252F2%252Fe430&
Originally published in the Times & Transcript on October 22nd, 2011.
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