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Loudness is a subjective attribute of sounds that allows us to experience the dynamics of music, speech, and our environment. Sounds can range from soft and calming to so loud that they startle us. The louder the sound, the faster we respond to it. Loud sounds draw our attention, alert us to danger, and pump us up when we are working out at the gym.

Exposure to very loud sounds can also cause hearing loss. When most sounds reach potentially damaging levels, they become unpleasant and we refrain from exposing ourselves to them. The exception to this rule is music. The normal controls that protect us from sound exposure that can result in hearing loss seem to be absent for music, but only if we find ...

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