Enjoy the healing power of music, but watch the volume - Ian McLellan

You can never underestimate the power of music. Emotionally evocative, it can be calming, mood boosting, memory provoking and, sometimes, healing. Not bad for a melody and harmony.

It comes as little surprise that recent Specsavers research has revealed 87 per cent of Scots say music is one of the most powerful mediums to evoke emotion. It stands to reason, therefore, that the impact of music therapy can have a profound impact for those affected by isolation, sight and hearing impairments, life-limiting illness or disability. Indeed, according to music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins Scotland, 92 per cent of people who’ve experienced music therapy felt it improved their lives, with 96 per cent admitting it improved their communication skills.

It’s as if we’re hard wired to respond to music and, as an audiologist, I’ve seen first-hand how sight and hearing impairments can impact lives. I’ve also seen how music therapy can have a transformative effect on other lives. This is why the Specsavers stores throughout Scotland helped to raise £15,000 for music therapy following the Specsavers Scottish Music Awards earlier this year. This money alone will cover the cost of more than 600 music therapy sessions in Scotland for children and adults with disabilities, as well as adults receiving end of life care, through Nordoff Robbins.

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Hearing is the first sense we develop in the womb, and the last sense we use before death. Irrespective of disability, illness or circumstance, I believe it’s one of the most important ingredients of life. It’s therefore crucial we do all we can to protect our hearing.

Despite being a nation of music lovers, Specsavers research shows that 55 per cent of people in Scotland have never had their hearing tested; and 58 per cent admit to listening to music at a volume that could damage their hearing. As the Scottish audiology chair for Specsavers, this is a worrying figure – especially when research also revealed more than four fifths of Scots say they would be devastated if they could no longer listen to music.

While so many of us enjoy the benefits of hearing when it comes to music, it’s apparent that the vast majority aren’t taking the necessary measures to look after our hearing and could be causing irreversible damage that cannot be restored. Through our work for Nordoff Robbins, I’ve personally witnessed the power of music. I’ve also witnessed all too often how devastating hearing loss is. Therefore, awareness of hearing loss through music – and prevention – is key.

Be conscious of the volume when listening to music, above 60 per cent for prolonged periods may cause damage – give your ears regular breaks, and when you know you’re going to be surrounded by loud noise make sure to take hearing protection with you. Not only can loud noise cause pain, tinnitus and a temporary loss of hearing, long-term exposure to noise can cause permanent, irreparable nerve damage, that may not show up for a number of years.

If you notice any changes in your hearing, make sure to get it checked by your audiologist. That way, as many people as possible can enjoy the healing power of music – which is music to my ears.

Ian McLellan is Specsavers’ Scottish audiology chair.

For more information, to book an appointment or find out about the range of hearing protection available visit www.specsavers.co.uk/hearing.

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