BACKGROUND: Exposure to recreational noise, particularly music exposure, is considered one of the biggest public health hazards of our time. Some important influencing factors such as socioeconomic status, educational background, and cross-cultural perspectives have previously been found to be associated with attitudes toward loud music and the use of hearing protection. Although culture seems to play an important role, there is relatively little known about how it influences perceptions regarding loud music exposure in young adults.
PURPOSE: The present study was aimed to explore cross-cultural perceptions of and reactions to loud music in young adults (18-25 yr) using the theory of social representations.
RESEARCH DESIGN: The study used a cross-sectional survey design.
STUDY SAMPLE: The study sample included young adults (n = 534) from five different countries (India, Iran, Portugal, the United States, and the United Kingdom) who were recruited using convenience sampling.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were collected using a questionnaire. Data were analyzed using a content analysis, co-occurrence analysis, and also χ² analysis.
RESULTS: Fairly equal numbers of positive and negative connotations (∼40%) were noted in all countries. However, the χ² analysis showed significant differences between the countries (most positive connotations were found in India and Iran, whereas the most negative connotations were found in the United Kingdom and Portugal) regarding the informants’ perception of loud music. The co-occurrence analysis results generally indicate that the category “negative emotions and actions” occurred most frequently, immediately followed by the category “positive emotions and actions.” The other most frequently occurring categories included “acoustics,” “physical aliment,” “location,” and “ear and hearing problems.” These six categories formed the central nodes of the social representation of loud music exposure in the global index. Although some similarities and differences were noted among the social representations toward loud music among countries, it is noteworthy that more similarities than differences were noted among countries.
CONCLUSIONS: The study results suggest that “loud music” is perceived to have both positive and negative aspects within society and culture. We suggest that the health promotion strategies should focus on changing societal norms and regulations to be more effective in decreasing the noise- and/or music-induced auditory symptoms among young adults.