Shut Up, Chris Brown!

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Yes, Chris Brown is not the best human being, but that's not why I'm yelling at him. In addition to countless other artists, Brown has a song where he begs the DJ to "turn up the music!" Clearly, he did not pay attention in science class, or else he would've known how bad loud music can be. Sure, turning up high octane dance or rock music can invigorate us with energy, but did you know how detrimental this can be to your ability to hear? The effects of loud music need to be recognized, before it's too late!

The ear is comprised of three different parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear. Sound enters through the outer ear, at different volumes and frequencies (if you play your iPod at the same volume on a table or with headphones in your ears, it is going to be louder with the headphones in). This sound travels through the middle portion of your ear to the ear drum as a vibration. This vibration travels to the inner ear where it is transmitted to the cochlea. The cochlea is an organ lined with a lot of tiny little hairs that changes these vibrations to nerve impulses that are sent through the auditory nerve. Thus, sound is made and recognized by the brain!

Hearing loss is determined, believe it or not, by the hairs in the cochlea. When you go to a concert, a football game, or walk past a loud construction zone, you can be subjected to very loud volumes for extended periods of time. Generally, these loud noises will flatten the hairs in the cochlea, but after a while, they will stand back up. While the hairs are flattened, you may hear a ringing noise in your ear (I know this happens to me when I take out my headphones after cutting the grass), but it disappears as the little hairs stand back up. The real problem with hearing loss comes into effect when a person is constantly exposed to these loud noises. In that case, they run the risk of having their tiny cochlea hairs breaking. If these hairs break, they cannot pick up the vibrations that turn into impulses that become the sounds we hear.

A recent study says that one in every four UK adults aged 18 to 24 listen to their music at a maximum volume, which is pretty alarming. Long exposure to music this loud does not depend on age, as is often a common misconception. In fact, Robert Beiny, a British audiologist, says, "Teenagers are now experiencing the same hearing damage as their parents' generation, but at a younger age." Another concern that often comes with loud noise is the safety of a fetus. Many pregnant women worry that loud sounds will ruin their unborn child's hearing. Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You're Expecting, says that a baby's ears are not fully developed until 27-30 weeks into the pregnancy, and even then, a mother's body and a layer of amniotic fluid make it pretty hard for babies to really hear sound. Still, she suggests that expectant mothers take a backseat from loud noises, just as a precaution.


While blasting music is often fun, and everyone loves to hear the beat go a little louder, it may not be safe to do at all times. No, cranking the music up at the highest possible volume for one night will not ruin your eyes, but if you do it every night,you run the risk of hurting your own ears. Additionally, mothers should take certain precautions when expecting to preserve their child's ability to hear. Maybe Chris Brown should rethink his lyrics: "Turn down the music! So I preserve my hearing."


1 Comment

Hey Evan,
Thanks for this article on hearing loss and loud music. I do not usually listen to my i-pod at max volume because of this issue. Sometimes when I am at the gym I will crank it up but there is always a little voice in the back of my mind wondering if I am damaging my ears. When I am at home I try not to use my headphones because it seems to me that less damage is being done. Your post actually made me think of another music related question: does listening to music while we sleep prevent our brains from completely "powering down"?

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