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The appeal of turning up the volume

Why loud music sounds so much better

Parents have always told their children to keep the music down to avoid damaging their ears. While this is good advice for anyone, louder sounds have been proven to stimulate the senses in ways that its softer counterpart cannot. This is why it is so enticing to reach over and turn up the volume knob.

CU Denver has been ranked as one of the top music business programs in the US, according to Billboard. With state-of-the-art technology and recording studios, understanding the physics of sound and the effects of volume is one that not just music students can understand.

Music at loud volumes is seemingly able to  transport the listener to another world. Doctor Barry Blesser stated in his paper The Seductive (Yet Destructive) Appeal of Loud Music that when sounds occur in a small area it becomes concentrated. 

“Every sound source and every aural event within the listener’s acoustic horizon is part of the aural space,” Blesser said. The loudest noise in any given area will define the space and all of the less significant sounds that aren’t noticed when it is at a significantly higher amplitude. The surrounding areas become muted and can seem like another place entirely, which is all part of the appeal. 

Listening to music at higher volumes can be more pleasurable, which is proven by the work of the sacculus; a part of the inner ear that only reacts to sounds that are above 90 decibels. This small part of the ear has connections to the pleasure centers in the brain, meaning that endorphins are released whenever it is triggered. That’s one reason why events such as concerts are so engaging and pleasurable—because they are at just the right amplitude to satisfy the criteria for the sacculus to work.

Besides releasing chemicals in the brain, music also draws people together in many ways. The most noticeable places are at concerts and nightclubs. Humans, as a species, tend to connect and synchronize with each other when a significant amount of time is spent together—such as when concert-goers clap all together to the rhythm of the music. Since the Pepsi Center is so close to campus, this togetherness can be felt any time a student goes to a concert.

In the study Why Do People Like Loud Sound? by David Welch and Guy Fremaux, they explore why music can be perceived as gratifying and unifying.

“Loud music was associated with forming a connection with others, a sense of belonging to the group through the sharing of an experience,” Welch and Fremaux said. They found that loud venues positively influenced social interactions between strangers, since the level of amplitude still allowed for privacy.

There’s an appeal to listening to music loudly—it stimulates the brain in ways that soft music could never do. And while the top priority is to not damage hearing, a different world can be found to those who turn up the volume.

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