New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper


Background Music

Somewhere in the distant reaches of marketing in this country some wiseacre decreed that that people would spend more money if they were listening to music as they shopped, dined out, or attended a street fair. Perhaps their grandmother took them, as did mine, for an elegant luncheon. The table cloths and napkins were white linen, the flatware sparkled, the wait staff was attentive, and there was always a harpist or pianist playing quietly in the background. Somehow, in the wonder at new tastes and experiences, the wiseacre noticed the music, but not the volume at which it was being played.

Now it is impossible to go anywhere without being bombarded by overly loud, badly played, badly recorded and badly reproduced rhythmic noise. The higher tones ping off hard surfaces and the lower notes vibrate the floor. We, the “older generation(s)” are particularly vulnerable.

There is often a physical reason for our discomfort. While some of us do, in fact, lose some hearing as we age, it is the changing nature of how we hear which does most of us in. As we age, we hear sounds in a different range than when we were younger – some sounds we hear better, some sounds we hear less well. We also lose some of our ability to filter sounds, and end up being unable to differentiate nearby voices from sounds further away. This is particularly true of amplified sound. We struggle to make sense of the cacophony.

Try an experiment. Ask random people in a place with background music which is intruding into the foreground whether they are enjoying the sound. The younger the person the more likely they are to be already singing along. The middle age range person will be startled and then say “What music? I just ignore it”. The older person will agree that it is “awful”.

If I understand the demographics of who is spending money in this country, that far-away marketing genius had it right. The teenagers and young adults are outspending us seniors many times over.

Ear plugs may be the new must-have senior accessory.