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Noise Health. 2015 Sep-Oct;17(78):350-7. doi: 10.4103/1463-1741.165065.

The association of noise sensitivity with music listening, training, and aptitude.

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Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki; Department of Music, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland, .


After intensive, long-term musical training, the auditory system of a musician is specifically tuned to perceive musical sounds. We wished to find out whether a musician's auditory system also develops increased sensitivity to any sound of everyday life, experiencing them as noise. For this purpose, an online survey, including questionnaires on noise sensitivity, musical background, and listening tests for assessing musical aptitude, was administered to 197 participants in Finland and Italy. Subjective noise sensitivity (assessed with the Weinstein's Noise Sensitivity Scale) was analyzed for associations with musicianship, musical aptitude, weekly time spent listening to music, and the importance of music in each person's life (or music importance). Subjects were divided into three groups according to their musical expertise: Nonmusicians (N = 103), amateur musicians (N = 44), and professional musicians (N = 50). The results showed that noise sensitivity did not depend on musical expertise or performance on musicality tests or the amount of active (attentive) listening to music. In contrast, it was associated with daily passive listening to music, so that individuals with higher noise sensitivity spent less time in passive (background) listening to music than those with lower sensitivity to noise. Furthermore, noise-sensitive respondents rated music as less important in their life than did individuals with lower sensitivity to noise. The results demonstrate that the special sensitivity of the auditory system derived from musical training does not lead to increased irritability from unwanted sounds. However, the disposition to tolerate contingent musical backgrounds in everyday life depends on the individual's noise sensitivity.

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