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‘I’ll tell you Dad, rap isn’t crap. You just can’t hear it right.’

Dr. Lister compared the sound of rap for the aged ear to looking at an unfamiliar picture with holes in it and then blurred.

“Turn off that racket. Rap is crap. It’s horrible; I won’t listen to it for even a second.” My dad, a baby boomer, has said this since I was born.

I can understand why older generations, like my father’s, disapprove of the explicit lyrics of rap, but it is not clear why it seems older people don’t like rap when the content is clean. Why dad, why don’t you and so many other older people like rap?

Perhaps, his distaste for the genre goes deeper than the cultural differences between us.  Maybe the older generation’s distaste for rap  began in their youth. Possibly our generation’s distaste for the future’s music is starting right now in our youth as well.

Jennifer Lister, a professor of graduate audiology studies, has researched the effects of aging on hearing for several years. Lister’s research provides the older generations with three scientific reasons for not liking these genres of music for more than cultural differences.

Depending on an individual’s exposure to noise throughout their life, hearing loss is typical for individuals in their mid-fifties and older. If exposed to significant noise while growing up, hearing loss can start affecting people in their mid-forties.

  • “As we age, our cochlear hairs become damaged and diminished from aging,” Lister said. “As these hairs are damaged an individual’s tolerance for high-pitched sounds is not as clear.”
  • Not only does the damage to the cochlear hairs distort high-pitch sounds it also makes it harder to tolerate loud sounds. Just like our parents probably preferred to play their rebellious music at ear-splitting levels, the youth today take advantage of the loud speakers in their cars and stereos at home. Rarely are rap songs, especially what is broadcasted on the radio, of a relaxing or mild tone.
  • There is also another physical factor explaining why my dear old dad and other aged folk don’t like rap as much as we might wish they did. “As the hairs are stimulated, they send a message to the auditory cortex of our brain and as we age the brain registers new sounds slower,” Lister said.

Lister gave an example of the sound distortion as a picture. “It’s like if it was a picture that had holes in it, the holes representing the inability to hear high-pitches, and then if that picture was blurred, like the time-lapse experienced as the neurons travel up the brain. It wouldn’t be a picture that we would want to look at.”

Considering this, it seems appropriate to question why older people listen to any music at all. Wouldn’t their aged-tunes be as equally unsatisfying?

Lister said, “If you had a picture of something familiar that you used to like, your memory fills in the holes and controls the distortion.”

The answer to the dilemma between the youth and the aged in regards to rap isn’t answered by one explanation. Our ears and brains change as we mature, just like generations change. One day this generation will find themselves sticking to the rap classics just like our parents have stuck to their music.



  1. Pingback: Advantages of Getting Older | My Blog - April 20, 2012

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