The Immune System Responds to Music and Noise

March 15, 2021

New research confirms that noise can cause great alterations to the immune system and that music can improve immune function and alleviate the adverse effects caused by noise.

A group of Chinese researchers estimating the impact of noise on the immune system confirmed that both human innate immunity and specific immunity can be influenced by noise. In addition, noise exposure during pregnancy may be harmful to the immune system of the fetus. On the other hand, music can improve immune function and alleviate the adverse effects caused by noise.

New paper – entitled, “The Immune System Can Hear Noise” and published in “Frontiers in Immunology” – examined the impact of noise on the immune system from the following perspectives: the relationship between noise and the immune system, the correlations between noise and immune diseases, the mechanisms by which noise causes immune system disorders, the intergenerational influence of noise and the beneficial effects of music on the human body.

“Noise can cause great alterations to the immune system”, authors write, “and result in many physical and mental disorders, including noise-induced deafness, sleep disorders, cardiovascular diseases, endocrine diseases and other problems. The immune system plays a major role in maintaining homeostasis by recognizing and removing harmful substances in the body. Noise may play vital roles in the occurrence and development of some immune diseases.”

“Noise is an important environmental factor that affects human health.In general, any sound that causes irritability, stress, or disturbance on our normal life can be classified as noise. In addition to affecting the auditory system, increasing evidence in recent years has confirmed that noise may cause various diseases, such as obesity, coronary atherosclerotic heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, sleep disorders, and mental illness.”

“Short-term or low-intensity noise can enhance immune function, while long-term or high-intensity noise suppresses it. Every coin has two sides, and the good side of the sound coin is music. Music can activate the cerebral cortical area and produce a sense of pleasure, so music therapy can reduce and even eliminate psychological barriers through its unique physiological and psychological effects, thereby treating conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, dementia, epilepsy, and cancer pain and aiding in stroke rehabilitation.”

“Additionally,” researchers explain, “music can regulate the function of the immune system by reducing the hyperactivity of the HPA axis (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis) induced by stressors and eventually attenuate the suppression or enhancement of the immune system by noise. Music can regulate immune function in healthy humans by enhancing the activity of NK cells (Natural Killer cells), increasing the number of T-lymphocytes.”

“Furthermore, music can have an obvious reversing effect on the immunosuppressive effects caused by noise, including decreases in thymus and spleen weight and the number or activity of lymphocytes and NK cells. Music can adjust immune function and alleviate the adverse effects of stressors on the immune system, which may be related to decreases in the levels of cortisol in the blood.”

Authors conclude: “Noise can suppress or enhance immune function by changing the levels of innate immunity and specific immunity, and the changes in the immune system vary with the exposure duration and intensity of noise and with individual sensitivity. Overall, we can speculate that short-term or low-intensity noise may improve innate and specific immunity, while long-term or high-intensity noise suppresses the corresponding immune function.”

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