Assaulted by the iPod: The Link between Passive Listening and Violence

Mark Thorley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)
    39 Downloads (Pure)
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)79-96
    JournalPopular Music and Society
    Issue number1 - special issue: Popular Music and Violence
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2011

    Bibliographical note

    Author's note: Significance
    This paper is the first to show how the act of passive listening brought about by an iPod or MP3 player has health implications, and can be considered to be an act of violence. It is based upon related fields bringing them together to explain a phenomenon which has been often commented on anecdotally but not researched previously. It draws upon existing work in communication studies (changes in listening habits), music and violence (torture etc.), acoustics (noise control, acoustic environments), audio production (quality of production and reproduction) and psychology (the stress response and health impact).
    The paper offers a number of strategies to deal with the problem including better audio designs, awareness on the part of employers, application of existing BS4142 standards to passive listening, better management by transport companies and awareness of the problem in the workplace. As such, it offers the potential to inform policy for acoustic environmental design as well as audio hardware. The paper also points to further areas of research such as examining what kinds of sounds (frequency, amplitude etc.) are most annoying, and to whom (based on their culture and previous experience).
    As well as being published in Popular Music and Society, the work was also accepted for inclusion at Euronoise in Prague (
    Originality -
    Existing research into MP3 player/iPod listening is limited to that of damage to hearing, and the impact on the listening habits of consumers. This is the first work to suggest the concept of a passive listener (the listener forced to listen without choice) and the fact that this produces negative health effects which can be considered to be violence.


    • iPod
    • Music and Violence
    • Music Psychology
    • Music Production

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Music
    • Speech and Hearing
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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