Music has always been the language of intense emotion: we use it to mark great victories, mourn the passing of monarchs and loved ones alike, and soundtrack our relationships. Life without it is, for most of us, almost unthinkable. But why does it touch us so deeply?
“Hearing a piece of music stimulates primitive, evolutionarily ancient and deep brain structures,” says music psychologist and performer Dr Ruth Herbert, research fellow at the Faculty of Music at Oxford University and author of Everyday Music Listening.
Scholars have always been fascinated by the link between sound and emotion. And although modern science hasn’t fully solved the riddle of why particular pieces of music make us feel certain things, we know far more about it now than we did 20 years ago.
One of the fascinating things that has become clear is that people from very different cultures and backgrounds will often agree on whether a piece of music sounds happy or sad – making it a truly universal form of communication.
“Emotional reactions to music involve the brain’s limbic lobe, which incorporates structures such as the amygdala, hypothalamus, thalamus and cingulate gyrus that process emotional reactions sub-cortically,” Dr Herbert explains. “That means music affects us on an unconscious level, before we have time to think about it.”
“We also know that listening to a piece of music can stimulate production of endorphins – the feel-good hormones,” she continues. This reaction helps us to do everything from balancing our moods and emotions to bonding with each other.
And emotions generated by music, it turns out, can be contagious. “When you’re in a choir you literally ‘catch’ certain feelings from one another.”
Of course, if you find you’re experiencing hearing loss, the pleasures of music and all its associated benefits may start slipping away from you. You may not even realise that something is missing until hearing is restored through hearing aids or some form of treatment, and life regains its full joy and richness.
That’s why it’s so important to address the problem as soon as you can.
Don’t miss another moment: if you have any concerns at all, book an appointment with Amplifon.
Amplifon is one of the world’s leading hearing specialists, with branches in more than 20 countries offering the latest invisible digital hearing aids and a service that’s tailored to you.