Brooke and loud music: habituation

[Original posting date: June 16, 2020]

There is a section in Zen and the Brain (by James Austin, MD) – I believe within the larger bit about the effects of meditation on the brain
Monks and Clicks: Habituation
When I first glanced at that title, this time ’round
I read it as ‘cliques’ and was amused
But, no
It’s really about clicks
About what happens in the brain
When people have regularly spaced clicking noises played with their range of hearing
In ‘normal’ controls
IE: people who have not been trained in meditative techniques
Those clicking sounds, at first
Will generate bursts of alpha frequency brainwaves
But then
After the first few clicks, the brain will become habituated to the noise
Of noticing the sounds

Monks, though, whose brain waves were being monitored during meditation
Their brains never ceased generating alpha waves in response to the clicks
Now, like the word audiophile
I had never really used the word meditation to describe anything I did
Until very recently
I have never been trained in anything like that
And still don’t really ever try to achieve meditation
But I do try to pay attention
Which I think may have some relevance here
There’s a story I heard once
May be apocryphal, but- like the Native Americans and the Spanish ships, I think still illustrates what I’m trying to convey pretty well
I don’t know if it was about one Lighthouse Keeper in particular

Or a thing which has been noted by multiple Lighthouse Keepers (or none at all, if it’s fictional!)
But I’ve heard that, back in the day
(The Day of Ships and Storms and Lighthouses and Town Criers)
Lighthouse Keepers, hearing the blast of the gun marking each hour
Would get so used to that noise
So habituated to that sound, though loud- occurring exactly every hour
That they could not only sleep easily despite the sound of the gunshots
But would wake up if one were missed
That silence
Shocking enough to yank them out of slumber
So, if true
Habituation affects our brains in pretty interesting ways
Now, I am still aware of the (probably Not Unlikely) possibility that my TBF is causing me to simply justify loud music because it’s a thing that I like
But, strangely enough- I feel like, if anything, my hearing problems have largely gone away over the past year or so
If I do still have problems hearing, they’re not noticeable anymore
And, up until pretty darn recently- they were very noticeable
I had started telling people that if my eyes were not on their face, to just assume I had not caught the words they had said
But, I just realized today, in thinking about this topic
That I haven’t told anyone that in a really long time
That I haven’t felt the need to, in a really long time

And I wonder if it could possibly have anything to do with this whole Habituation thang.
Like, maybe if we’re around loud music, but it’s louder than we’re used to, or our conscious brains are doing something other than processing the music- if our brains are doing something else

Too much sensory input to mask properly
So maybe, in this supposition- that could be when auditory sensory bits in our brains begin to get damaged
There is a way to immerse ourselves in the music
You know what? Scratch that last bit.


I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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