Loud sounds can do a lot of damage when it comes to our hearing, but loud sounds in bars and clubs also have a number of positive effects on our well-being, a new study has found. Loud music increases ‘happy’ emotions, makes it easier to socialize, reduces conflict, and has a beneficial effect on businesses. The study, called “Why Do People Like Sound? A Qualitative Study” was published in May 2017, in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Even though the damaging effects of loud sounds are well known, people still seek out places where the music will be turned up to eleven. A group of researchers in Auckland City, New Zealand wanted to find out why. The study participants, ranging in age from 18 to 25, were clubbers, people who go frequently go out to bars, or people who work at bars and clubs, such as bartenders and DJs.
In the bars and nightclubs that were the focus of the study, the music was found to reach average continuous levels of 97 dB, which is above the safe level for continuous or frequent exposure. Music in nightclubs may account for around 70 percent of the total leisure noise exposure in young people, and the study participants attended these clubs an average of five hours a week.
Researchers pointed to a parallel between the risk of listening to loud music, and the risks of smoking and drinking, which have both been shown to be harmful to our health, yet are associated with enjoyment and are socially acceptable.
So, what do people see as the particular benefits of loud sounds?
Loud sounds can…
1) Enhance positive emotions
One very clear finding of the study was the way loud music effectively creates and enhances positive feelings. According to both club patrons and employees, loud sounds result in a positive state of mind, increasing feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, happiness, and the motivation to move and dance. It was also found that if the loud sounds were previously associated with positive feelings, they would trigger the same responses.
2) Block out unwanted noises and thoughts
Just as loud sounds can increase positive emotions, they also provide an important escape from negative ones. Participants believed that loud music helped to mask external unwanted sounds as well as allowing them greater control over their emotional state, by blocking out unhappy thoughts or feelings. Everyone has felt the sensation of “losing yourself in the music,” and this seems to be facilitated by loudness.
3) Make it easier to socialize
Whether it be a party, a concert, a bar or a club, loud music creates a perfect context for group bonding and socialization. Researchers found that loud music increases the sense of community and belonging, and makes it easier to interact positively with strangers by lowering social inhibitions. Put simply, loud music draws people together in a shared experience of enjoyment–and let’s not forget the dancing.
4) Enhance personal identity
Loud sounds could also help to strengthen people’s feelings of personal identity, particularly of power and toughness, according to study respondents. While participants did not apply this aspect of sound enjoyment to themselves, they expressed the belief that others like loud sounds for this reason. They felt especially that very loud sounds, such as motorcycle engines, enhanced feelings of masculinity and ‘coolness’.
5) Help businesses to attract and retain customers
Loud music goes hand-in-hand with going out at night, whether it be to a bar, a live music venue or a dance club. This is partly the norm because customers expect and even demand it, but also because business owners know that loud music helps to draw in customers from the street, make the atmosphere more fun, and create a sense of privacy for conversations, even in very crowded venues. Loud sounds can even boost bar sales–research shows that loud music causes men to drink more, and more quickly–and help with ‘crowd control’ by creating a sense of camaraderie that reduces conflict.
Protect your ears
The downside of all of this blasting music is that people who work in bars and clubs are in danger of occupational hearing loss. Noise-related hearing loss happens gradually and is often unnoticeable at first. If you work in a loud environment where you feel your hearing is at risk, speak to your employer about finding ways to reduce hazardous sound levels, and make wearing earplugs at work a habit.
If you are a frequent clubber or concert-goer, take the same precautions with your hearing–keep earplugs on hand for those moments when it gets noticeably too loud. If you believe experiences with loud noise have adversely affected your hearing, contact our team at Hearing Health today to schedule a comprehensive hearing test and consultation.