Thursday, August 06, 2009

Is IPOD a 4 letter Word?

“Music is a double edged sword,” said Shakespeare. “It hath power to do harm or good….”

I’m writing this as I listen to some music specifically composed to stimulate maximum productivity, and I’m listening on my IPOD. It makes the music so much fun to hear…like being in the middle of the musicians. (I used to play flute in a symphony orchestra – now that’s a high!) If I was listening to anything else it would have my total focus, but this music is assisting me to be creative, I hope!

I can’t hear anything else….the phone, my cat crying for me to get off its tail, my husband asking if I want some tea. I am in my own world. If I wasn’t writing this and only listening, I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone.

So Shakespeare, here’s what we have discovered may happen when we use IPODs (or any MP3 player):

~there is a potential for hearing loss if you listen through earbuds with the volume cranked up. No problem you might say, we can ask people around us to talk louder and maybe someday invest in a hearing aid.

~you don’t have to be social. I was riding the subway in Boston last year. People were in their own worlds talking on cell phones or into their headphones and earbuds. (For those of us that find people talking on cell phones in close public places to be annoying, there is a device that can disable the phones within a small radius!) Even when I got off the train and walked around, people were doing the same thing. No eye contact with one another, no kindly smiles to one another, no passing comments at the corner.

~you can store an amazing amount of data on one of these things! I don’t have to travel with a suitcase of CDs to demonstrate music in my Music Medicine classes and trainings. Never mind that I do have to travel with a compatible stereo system to play it on so participants can hear the selections.

~listening with headphones/earbuds can be a distraction while doing some other task that needs your full attention, like driving. What ambulance? I was going how fast? (as I listened to my favorite hip hop tune).

~more people are listening to music – YEY! There is so much music available these days and you can now take it with you wherever you go. More people are discovering that there is music that makes you feel good. Maybe this will help replace Prozac. By the way, there are music and frequencies specifically composed to do this, and lots more.

~people are exercising less efficiently because they get distracted by the music and either slow down their routine or stop. OR, they are using music that does not match their own exercise rhythm or tempo. Research within the field of physical therapy shows that if you listen to music that matches the beat of what you are doing and you enjoy it, you will exercise longer, and increase your productivity. The aerobics group really has made good use of this, except maybe the ones who use classical music put to a different beat. Good grief. That’s like taking fine wine and adding seltzer or 7-UP.

~you can take it anywhere! Have you seen the little 1 inch square IPODs that you clip to your lapel (do clothes still have lapels?); it holds something like 294 songs. This is just mind boggling to me. However, think of all the ways you can positively use this: gym, jogging, belly jiggling, studying in the library (use the RIGHT music, Einstein), bathtub, hot tub, wash tub, sick bed, hospital (clip it to the pillow speaker strip!) eating, sleeping, singing, raking, mowing, meditating, massage (you listen to your music, your therapist listens to hers), OR, ER, …….

~you don’t have to share a listening experience, i.e., you don’t have to hear your teenagers’ music, or they yours. You don’t have to talk about your reaction to a piece of music because no one else heard it, unless, of course you have the speaker system.

~ I have just learned that a specialist researcher in subtle energies and sound, Freddy Silva, has stated that binaural CDs will play beautifully in MP3 players, BUT the binaural effects will most likely be lost. This is due to the file compression technology that eliminates many of the frequencies. Even though our ears cannot tell the difference, our bodies won't receive the full effect of the binaurals. This is most likely true for any of the technologies that use embedded frequencies. With that being said, I have found that when you import the programs as a WAV or AIF file, you will keep the full effect of the binaurals and frequency CDs.

~With your MP3 player you don’t have to listen to your body, mind, emotions, or spirit. “Just keep my buds plugged in, my pod turned on, and my tunes a playin’.”

As my husband has said: When there is constant music, you can’t hear yourself.

So, is IPOD a 4 Letter Word: I think Shakespeare had it right 400 years ago:
it is both HARM and GOOD.

To learn more about healthy usage of music, check out my book: Take Two CDs and Call Me in the Morning.

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America is Going Deaf.

Sound pollution has become a serious area of study with environmental engineers. Although I live in a relatively quiet neighborhood, I was blessed with extreme quietness while spending time in the boundary waters in Northern Minn. last summer. All I heard was lapping water, the occasional loon and other birds, and the wind, ie, the ‘real’ world. Coming back into the created cacophony world was like sticking my head in New York’s Lincoln Tunnel!

According to Donna S. Wayner, Ph.D., an audiologist and author of several books on hearing loss, "People tell me that a certain level of sound used to bother them but they got used to it. In reality they have reduced the efficiency of their hearing, and in time, the problem will spread. Typically, hearing loss is painless, so we think we're not vulnerable," says Dr. Wayner. "It's not like one day you can hear and the next day you can't. It's all cumulative." Experts say one in 10 Americans has a hearing loss that affects the ability to understand speech. Deciphering consonants at the ends of sentences may be especially difficult.

And it doesn't take a thunderous rock concert to cause hearing loss. Any repeated high-volume experiences or one-shot booms can damage the delicate nerve cells of your inner ear. And once damaged, these cells do not grow back. A good rule of thumb is that damage is occurring if you have to shout to be heard over the racket.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a power lawn mower, a leaf blower, and a chainsaw all produce sound at 130 decibels, enough to damage hearing. Prolonged use of hair dryers, shrill kids toys, guns and rifles, jackhammers, loud music, theater sound effects, and jets taking off can contribute to slow hearing loss, aside from increasing our stress levels.

Paying attention to what sounds are in your environment can have huge payoffs. Want to be able to focus better, decrease anxiety and stress, create a peaceful environment, have healthier plants, animals and kids? When we become more tuned into what our ears are hearing we can choose to play ‘healthy’ sounds. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked restaurant wait staff to either change the music being played or turn it off. If more people requested this, restaurants might begin to pay more attention, though, Hard Rock Cafes are at least honest in their advertising!

Don’t forget your pets in your playlists; they are directly affected by the type of music played, just like us.

Play Music to Your Plants!

In Siena, Italy wine maker Carlo Cignozzi plays Mozart, Beethoven and even some Mahler over loud speakers to his grapes. Daft you say? Well,
according to Cignozzi, playing Mozart's ‘Magic Flute' and Vivaldi's ‘Four Seasons,' his grapes matured within 10 to 14 days, instead of the usual 20 days. The alcohol content also became higher due to the faster growth. Another interesting discovery that came to his attention was the decrease in bacteria, molds and parasites. One year of playing some of Tchaikovsky's symphonies had also driven away deer and other nighttime predators from the vineyard.

We are familiar with the idea that classical music can improve our brain activity, and influence our emotions. But plants? Research studies at the National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology in Suwon, South Korea examined the effect of 14 different classical pieces including Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata in rice fields. They found that the music helped plants grow at a faster pace, and is evidence that plants have genes that enable them to “hear.”

Plants respond to sounds in profound ways that not only influence their overall health but also increase the speed of growth and size of the plant. It has been determined through repetitive testing by scientists that plants do respond to music and sound. Many high school students have done simple experiments with plants and music; all produce the same result: plants are affected by music.

So, how do your plants look? Perhaps playing some quiet classical music might perk them up, particularly if they are subjected to many sound pollutants like noisy TVs, radios, kids toys, video games, and hard rock music. Research indicates that playing hard rock music to plants stunts their growth! What do you think it might be doing to your pets!

Most new pharmaceuticals and cosmetics are tested first on mice as their biological systems are close to ours. An enterprising high school student examined the effect of music on mice running through a maze. For 3 weeks, 10 hours a day, David Merrell played Mozart to one group, hard rock music to a second group, and no music to the third group. By the end, the mice that had heard no music had managed to cut their time in half, averaging five minutes to complete the maze, simply as a result of regular practice. The mice that had listened to Mozart averaged an impressive one and a half minutes. For the mice that had listened to hard rock, navigating the maze had become more difficult and their original average time tripled to a staggering 30 minutes! Also worthy of note is the fact that David had tried to conduct a similar experiment the previous year, but cut it short when the hard rock mice killed each other off.

There is much research of late focused on the use of music to calm pets. And not just any music will do! You can read more in the article Healing Music and Sounds for Pets in this blog.