Music is my Assistive Technology

Tablet, laptop computer, mouse & mouse pad, and headphones on a desk.

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Woman listening to headphones connected to a smartphone.How often do you listen to music?  Do you turn it on when you wake up?  Do you listen in the car/transit as you head to work & go about your day?  Is it on when you’re in the shower?  When you’re doing chores?  While working out?  Maybe a better question to ask is when is music not on?  In my life, music is almost always on (either I’m actively listening or have it on in the background); that is to say, when I’m not listening to podcasts. Music has a powerful, positive effect on my mood, productivity, and attention.  “It turns out that a moderate noise level is the sweet spot for creativity. Even more than low noise levels, ambient noise apparently gets our creative juices flowing, and doesn’t put us off the way high levels of noise do.  The way this works is that moderate noise levels increase processing difficulty which promotes abstract processing, leading to higher creativity. In other words, when we struggle (just enough) to process things as we normally would, we resort to more creative approaches.”

Vintage radios stacked on shelves.

Music can illicit memories and feelings from a different time in my life and gives me all the good nostalgic feels.  Stevie Wonder was quoted saying, “Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.”

Lit up keys on a soundboard.Music has been able to lessen the pain of a headache and give me more energy & motivation.  Usually if I’m anxious, worried, or upset it’s partly because it’s been a while since I heard a song I enjoy.  As soon as I can turn on music which I have chosen, I feel relief and hope; music is my Assistive Technology.  A study showed that, “Preferred music was found to significantly increase tolerance and perceived control over the painful stimulus and to decrease anxiety compared with both the visual distraction and silence conditions. Pain intensity rating was decreased by music listening when compared with silence.”

Child playing with an electric guitar.While I was growing up, music was strongly integrated into many things that my family did; especially family road trips where we would listen to (and sing along with) Crosby, Stills, & Nash!  I learned my love (and need) of music from my parents; I learned how it can help me throughout my daily life.

When I was in high school, my family got cable and I got to sneak listening to 2 music video channels, MTV and VH1 (I still miss those pop up videos!)  During that time in the 1990’s, music was still on CD’s and downloading 1 song from the dial up internet took hours (there was no YouTube yet!)  Cassette tapes.I remember it being such a struggle to listen to the music that I wanted to hear (tape recording songs off of the radio when they were played was a challenge and I always got some of the DJ talking over part of the songs).  As I’ve grown, so has technology.  I read an article recently about Menials (or Xennials) growing up with the Internet & technology.  It shared, “As we were growing up, technology matured along side us. We had time to get used to it and were still young enough to feel right at home with it.”  I feel like the same applies to access to music.  Starting with cassette tapes, moving to CD’s, then to MP3 players, and now to streaming services on our smart devices.

This year I decided to start paying for a subscription to Amazon Prime’s music streaming service, Prime Music.  I now have access to virtually all of the music I want (the teenager inside of the 32 year old me rejoices daily about this!)  I can listen on demand on my iPhone, in the car, on my computer, etc.  Having access to music that I choose to when I need to listen to is extremely cathartic and helpful for me.  I can listen to old favorites from high school years (oh hello Spice Girls), expand my appreciation for indie music, and enjoy new music (I have fallen in love with Miles Davis’ ‘Concierto de Aranjuez: Adagio‘)!  Person blowing chalk into the air. It looks like magic to me.As Tom Petty once said, “Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things.”

How does music impact you?  How do you access it?

Author: Jen

My name is Jen Gossett and I'm a Regional Manager with the Michigan Assistive Technology Program at Michigan Disability Rights Coalition. I believe that technology is a right and that everyone deserves the chance to learn about it and to use it in all of its various forms. If you would like to learn more about me, visit the MDRC staff page & scroll down to read my bio: http://mymdrc.org/home/staff

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