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How sound can affect your health: Healing or too loud hospital noises?

Sound can heal and also could keep you sick. Interestingly, soothing harp music sometimes is played in hospitals for its ability to calm and allow healing to take place, according to a May 24, 2006 news release, "Listening to music can reduce chronic pain and depression by up to a quarter." Listening to music can reduce chronic pain by up to 21 per cent and depression by up to 25 per cent, according to a paper appearing June 2006 in the UK-based Journal of Advanced Nursing, "Effect of music on power, pain, depression and disability." The author of that paper is Sandra L Siedlecki, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio, and Marion Good, Case Western University, Ohio.

How sound can affect your health: Healing or too loud hospital noises?
Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

It can also make people feel more in control of their pain and less disabled by their condition. Researchers carried out a controlled clinical trial with sixty people, dividing them into two music groups and a control group. They found that people who listened to music for an hour every day for a week reported improved physical and psychological symptoms compared to the control group. You may wish to check out another article on healing harp music, "Laura Smithburg Byrne : The Healing Power of Harp Music."

In the research paper, "Effect of music on power, pain, depression and disability," participants, who had an average age of 50, were recruited from pain and chiropractic clinics in Ohio, USA. They had been suffering from a range of painful conditions, including osteoarthritis, disc problems and rheumatoid arthritis, for an average of six and a half years.

90 per cent said the pain affected more than one part of their body and 95 per cent said it was continuous. Before the music study, participants reported that their usual pain averaged just under six on a zero to ten pain scale and their worst pain exceeded nine out of ten.

"The people who took part in the music groups listened to music on a headset for an hour a day and everyone who took part, including the control group, kept a pain diary" explains nurse researcher Dr Sandra L Siedlecki from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio, according to the May 24, 2006 news release, "Listening to music can reduce chronic pain and depression by up to a quarter."

"Forty people were assigned to the two music groups and the other 20 formed the control group. "The first group were invited to choose their own favorite music and this included everything from pop and rock to slow and melodious tunes and nature sounds traditionally used to promote sleep or relaxation.

"The second group chose from five relaxing tapes selected by us. These featured piano, jazz, orchestra, harp and synthesizer and had been used in previous pain studies by co-author Professor Marion Good from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio."

At the end of the trial:

  • The music groups reported that their pain had fallen by between 12 and 21 per cent, when measured by two different pain measurement scales. The control group reported that pain increased by between one and two per cent.
  • People in the music groups reported 19 to 25 per cent less depression than the control group.
  • The music groups reported feeling nine to 18 per cent less disabled than those who hadn't listened to music and said they had between five and eight per cent more power over their pain than the control group.

"Our results show that listening to music had a statistically significant effect on the two experimental groups, reducing pain, depression and disability and increasing feelings of power" says Dr Siedlecki, according to a May 24, 2006 news release, Listening to music can reduce chronic pain and depression by up to a quarter. "There were some small differences between the two music groups, but they both showed consistent improvements in each category when compared to the control group. Non-malignant pain remains a major health problem and sufferers continue to report high levels of unrelieved pain despite using medication. So anything that can provide relief is to be welcomed."

"Listening to music has already been shown to promote a number of positive benefits and this research adds to the growing body of evidence that it has an important role to play in modern healthcare" adds co-author Professor Marion Good. Previous research by Professor Good and Hui-Ling Lai, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in 2005 and republished in journal's 30th Anniversary issue in 2006, showed that listening to 45 minutes of soft music before bedtime can improve sleep by more than a third. A predoctoral grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research of the US Government's National Institutes of Health supported the study.

Sound levels in some hospitals may be too high for healthy rest and healing

If you take a look at the study published in 2006 in the UK-based Journal of Advanced Nursing, "Effect of music on power, pain, depression and disability," researchers found that the sound levels of noise in hospital settings for the greater part of the 24 hours, measured between 70 and 90 per cent of the time, the sound level was above 55 dB – in addition, there were a number of short sound bursts above 100 dB.

The sound level around seriously ill patients is heard to be 'like a busy road' says recent research. Seriously ill patients in intensive care units are being cared for in environments with sound levels more than 20 dB higher than the WHO's recommendations. This is shown by a study carried out in partnership between the University of Gothenburg and the University of Borås. What are the effects of music on power, pain, depression, and disability?

In the study, the researchers registered sound levels around 13 seriously ill patients cared for in the intensive care unit at Södra Älvsborg Hospital over a 24-hour period. The study shows that the sound levels around seriously ill patients were on average between 51 and 55 dB. This is comparable with a busy road.

When the patients were interviewed about their experiences of the surrounding sounds, they recalled both positive and negative experiences. Positive experiences included, for example, the sound of the staff talking quietly between themselves or providing information on ongoing treatment.

"Sounds perceived as frightening were uncontrollable sounds from, for example, alarms, and sounds from seriously ill fellow patients, and treatments and examinations. One patient also described how the sounds around him had entered into his dreams and hallucinations," says Lotta Johansson, according to the September 17, 2012 news release, "Sound level around seriously ill patients 'like a busy road'." Johansson is a researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, who led the study.

The sound levels found by the study are slightly lower than those measured by previous studies, but still significantly higher than the 30 dB recommended by the WHO for patient rooms in hospitals

"The interesting thing is that what the patients considered most disturbing was unknown and uncontrollable sounds rather than the generally high sound level. This shows that we must take further measures to create healing care environments with better conditions for sleep and recovery for seriously ill patients," explains Lotta Johansson, according to the news release.

You may wish to check out the abstract of the recent study, "The sound environment in an ICU patient room – A content analysis of sound levels and patient experiences" published online October 2012 in the journal Intensive and Critical Care Nursing. It's a preliminary study for a larger project in which the researchers will study in more depth and from a longer perspective how the physical environment affects seriously ill patients.

What type of music has a healing affect outside of hospital walls, in the home, for example?

Does your child or other family members eat healthier foods when listening to ambient music? Classical? Medieval music? Or ethnic music? Check out the sound healing radio shows/podcasts at BBS radio

Also you can listen to other holistic shows on the BBS radio programs on the talk radio show site. Parents may wish to explore how different types of music influence your child's choice of food and menu selections and how music can help your child de-stress at mealtime and consider healthier choices on the menu.

Sound healing at mealtime at home or in schools may benefit the healthy eating habits of children, if the type of music played is at 60 beats per minute or less while they eat in a relaxed environment. Sound therapy can be used to inspire children to choose healthier foods if the music is compatible with the way the child's brain is wired.

Sound therapy is not new. Check out sound therapy sites in your own city. Examples (in one city) include DirectoryEnergysound | Healing Artists of the Sacramento Region, Healing Artists of the Sacramento Region, RubyHeart, Dancing Spirit Healing Center, and Policies & Procedures - Sound Healing Classes - Globe Institute.

Emerging sound therapy for nutrition

The emerging field of sound therapy for nutritional health focuses on studies looking at how sound can help you tune to a more healthy state of mind, body, and spirit at mealtime instead of a state where the digestive juices stop flowing under stress, noise, or hurry. One of the best books on alternative health or holistic health in general is Alternative Medicine, the definitive guide (second edition). Publisher is Celestial Arts.

The book is from the editors of Natural Solutions magazine. See, Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide (2nd edition. Some families spend hours eating, for example family dinners in China. But wherever your child is, the music piped into the school cafeteria or played around the dining room table can convey a less rushed time squeeze to eat convenience food and run back to school, play, or work.

There are chapters in the book, Alternative Medicine on the benefits of nutritional supplementation, vitamin and mineral supplement ranges, and various alternative therapies. What attracted attention was one chapter on sound therapy on page 453 which discussed the instruments of how to use sound therapeutically to relax. An example might be the use of devices that use specific sound frequencies to achieve therapeutic benefits such as pain reduction.

Sound therapy might also help children who eat too fast and then complain of stomach pain or upsets. Some musical sounds are designed to manipulate brain waves such as instruments.

One example might be the Electronic Ear, which has made strides in treating the autistic, according to that book. Music might be of help to autistic children with eating issues or children who will only eat one type of food such as mashed potatoes. Sound therapists realize that listening is unique for each person. Research continues combining listening with guided imagery and physical movement.

Some people listen to music while walking an indoor labyrinth. The research focuses on whether sound used for treatment can help in healing. Can certain tones bring a patient's health more into balance?

That's what scientists are looking at. You can find further information from such associations as the Sound Healer's Association, Sound Health Research Institute, Inc., Sound, Listening, and Learning Center, Mozart Effect Resource Center, Mid-Atlantic Training Institute, Saverna Park, Maryland. See, About Guided Imagery and Music (GIM). American Music Therapy Association, Inner Peace Music, The Georgiana Institute: Auditory Integration Training(AIT)/Digital, and The Chalice of Repose Project.

Palliative music

The Chalice of Repose Project also specializes in end of life palliative and pastoral care. Music-Thanatology is a sub-specialty of palliative medicine, and derives profound spiritual inspiration and meaning from the Benedictine Cluniac tradition of monastic medicine. In that light, every moment, person, condition and event is one in which we can turn to greet, receive and meet one another “in a new and living way.” The Chalice of Repose Project also offers several kinds of graduate level educational programs.

One holistic occupation is the music thanatologist, someone who uses music in helping the terminally ill patient. You can find more information on training for music thanatologists at The Chalic of Response Project.

Music is used in sleep therapy and nutrition research

Also music therapy is used sometimes in sleep disorder research. The point is there are many uses of and research in how music therapy and sound healing research is used with holistic applications.

Are you interested in an online Master’s degree program in Music-Thanatology (MDP)? The The Chalice of Repose Project is working on a long-term educational collaborative program which will facilitate both certificates and graduate degrees in music-thanatology. If you would like to be notified of all the particulars, including the application process, when these program offerings launch, please email the following information to

Maybe you want a master's degree in Contemplative Musicianship (CMP)? Students come from all over the world (North & South America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa): singers, instrumentalists, composers, chaplains, clinicians and people of prayer with basic music competencies, a love of music, and a longing for a deep formation in the spirituality of music.

This program is the pre-requisite for application to the Music-Thanatology Program. This is a distance learning program and combines web lectures and broadcasts with brief intensive residencies in Oregon. The entire course is taught in English. The application process for CMP15 will begin in 2012. If you would like to receive a detailed brochure with syllabus & application, please go to CMP15 Application Process. You may wish to look into how sound healing can influence children's healthier choices of foods.

Sound Healing Classes and/or Training Online

Online Sound Healing Classes with Live Instructors - Certificate or Degree
More Information. Detailed Schedule.
Or, take classes at your own convenience.
More Information. Sound Healing Audio Production Certificate • At the Institute - Next Semester Jan 17th. More Information. • Online More Information.

Root/Soul Frequency Assessment: Online or at the Institute. More Information.
Also check out the Sound Healing Radio every other Saturday.

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