Males Don't Follow Intuition When It Comes To Listening To Rock Music

September 02, 1997

ATHENS, Ohio -- Males may be more likely than females to play rock music at potentially dangerous volumes, regardless of whether or not they like rock music at all, a new study at Ohio University suggests.

A study of 250 Ohio University students ages 19 to 22 found that men may be influenced more by external circumstances, such as peer pressure, than they are by their own preferences for music. This pressure may influence their judgments about loudness to the point that they will play music they don't like loudly, said Donald Fucci, professor of speech and hearing at Ohio University and lead author of the study.

"For women, it was straightforward -- if they said they didn't like rock music, they didn't like to hear it played loudly," Fucci said. "But the men couldn't seem to follow their own preferences."

Studies of hearing loss in young people have suggested an increase in the cases of irreversible sensory hearing loss among people ages 18 to 21. This new study suggests males may experience more hearing damage because they may be succumbing to forces such as peer pressure, Fucci said.

"Young adults frequently try to test their limits," he said. "It might be that boys are more likely than girls to do that, although we don't know that for sure."

For the study, researchers asked the students to rate their preference for rock music as high, moderate or low. The people who rated their preference as either high or low were asked to listen to the rock song, "Heartbreaker" by Led Zeppelin, played at a range of volumes for a period of 10 seconds.

While listening, participants were asked to indicate whether they thought a particular volume was too loud, or if they wanted the music played louder.

"We found that even men who said they didn't like rock music rated it the same as those who liked it, which suggests that they may not be responding to their inner feelings about the music as much as women do," Fucci said. "It appears that women are more in tune with their emotions and their needs and are willing to follow those needs, at least in the case of listening to music."

The audio industry has often been blamed for causing hearing loss in young people by making powerful equipment for home and car stereo systems, but they just may be meeting the demands of consumers who are influenced by peer pressure and other external factors, Fucci said.

"I think the audio industry is giving the kids what they want," he said. "When you have speakers that can vibrate a car, the driver of the car is most likely responding to some sort of external pressure to have that system in the vehicle."

The National Institutes of Health estimates 28 million Americans have some level of hearing loss. In at least 10 million of those cases, the loss is caused by exposure to loud sounds. Any prolonged exposure to noise above 70 to 90 decibels -- the equivalent of someone yelling loudly -- can cause permanent hearing damage.

"Clearly there is a message we need to get to kids at an early age," Fucci said. "Telling kids, whether they are males or females, not to listen to music they enjoy is counterproductive. We somehow need to teach them to listen to all types of music at safe levels."

The study, published in a recent issue of Perceptual and Motor Skills, was co-authored by Linda Petrosino, professor of hearing and speech at Bowling Green State University, and Brooke Hallowell, assistant professor of hearing and speech, Lisa Andra and Corry Wilcox, former graduate students in hearing and speech, all at Ohio University.

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Contact: Donald Fucci, 614-593-1421; dfucci1@ohiou.edu.

Written by Kelli Whitlock, 614-593-0383; kwhitlock1@ohiou.edu.

Ohio University

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