Top 5 Karaoke Studies
August 17, 2011 | Lists
We’ve written about karaoke violence before, where we pointed out that karaoke is linked to certain negative health outcomes, not the least of which is being excluded from a census for being deader than the lunar surface.
Wannabe comedians may face a “tough crowd” but even the most resolutely hard-to-please audience, wouldn’t unleash its two-drink minimum fury on some poor slob trying to comp a few himself—not so in karaoke. As we’re seen, a sub-par performance can lead to often violent reprisals, even in front of dozens of witnesses, which makes whatever barb Simon Cowell might spit in your tone-deaf direction, tame by comparison.
Singing is best left to the shower, much like urination or dishes, but as a public phenomenon, karaoke at least, has been surprisingly well-studied. Here are five health-related karaoke research studies.
We’re not medical doctors (for that you can be grateful as anyone who updates this website as much as we do, would hold terrible office hours) but we know that if you hear “osis” it’s generally bad: tuberculosis, thrombosis, scoliosis, etc. Well, no need to panic if you hear “pollinosis” (unless you regularly have panic attacks, in which case feel free): it’s simply hay fever in response to allergens.
A study in the Japanese Journal of Public Health (54 (11), p.792-804, Nov 2007) looked at the prevalence of hay fever, in data from more than 10,000 people, and found that wealthier, stressed, female, urban office workers were more predisposed to pollinosis, whereas there were significant inverse associations with regard to being a farmer, smoker or karaoke aficionado. While the farmer results are not surprising (being repeatedly downwind of manure, it seems, is actually linked to protection against asthma and eczema), karaoke and smoking strangely seem to ward off the effects of hay fever as well. So, if you value prevention of hay fever over pretty much every other health concern you can imagine, take up smoking, farming and karaoke, but not at the same time.
4. Karaoke and Rehab of Mental Patients
It’s true that some karaoke bars have banned the singing of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, as despite the lyrical intimation, other peoples’ ways have been communicated through extreme violence, which has left 6 people dead in the Philippines over the last decade.
While My Way can evoke ugly confrontations, a study in the Singapore Medical Journal (SMJ vol 43 issue 12 December 2002) tried to see if karaoke can actually assist, rather than provoke, those with mental health issues. Sadly, no way. A population of Hong Kong Chinese karaoke singers were studied (In Asia, karaoke machines are so ubiquitous you can sing your way up to your high rise apartment or entertain oneself while on hold with the bank).
The research design was a double blind controlled trial conducted over six weeks in chronic schizophrenic patients matched in age, sex and duration of illness. One group sang their auditorially delusional hearts out karaoke-style, while the other did what was described as “simple singing”. Not surprisingly, much like the rest of us, karaoke was found to be “anxiety-provoking” [Bad Taste Editorial Aside: if one is schizophrenic and hears voices, is it possible they can join your glee club?]
3. Karaoke and Pain in Stroke Victims
If you’ve suffered a stroke, you know that the first thing you’d do while convalescing is demand a karaoke machine. The link between hearing someone butcher music and a positive health outcome, seems like a hypothesis shakier than Muhammad Ali on a fault plane—however, it was this very phenomenon examined in a pain perception study of joint exercises in stroke patients.
In the Journal of Music Theory (2005 Spring; 42(1):81-92), subjects rated their pain after an 8-week study period subjected to one of three conditions—song, karaoke accompaniment, and no music (one might quibble about whether karaoke qualifies as music, but we digress). Positive effects and verbal responses were noted in the musical groups.
2. Karaoke and Vocal Strain
A University of Hong Kong study looked at the effect of hydration and vocal rest on vocal fatigue on those regularly testing the dog-summoning properties of a karaoke upper register.
As the study helpfully pointed out, “Music video and song captions are shown on television screen to remind the singers during singing.” In Asia, singers are known to sing for four to five hour stretches (just be glad the devices are not allowed on board planes). This karaoke marathoning, accompanied by having no formal training (and poor aesthetic judgment—not mentioned in the study) meant that they were more vulnerable to vocal issues.
A small group of young males and females were divided into “short rest, water” and “no rest, no water”. The study concluded that “subjects who sang continuously without drinking water and taking rests showed significant changes in…the highest pitch they could produce…[suggesting that] hydration and vocal rests are useful strategies to preserve voice function and quality…”
1. Karaoke-Induced Hearing Loss
Researchers in Korea measured average and maximum sound pressure levels during performances of various types of karaoke singing, including ballads and rock.
They also measured each singer’s hearing threshold before and after 100 likely very excruciating minutes of karaoke. Results showed that noise levels in the typical karaoke singing environment were higher than 95 decibels. In an International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics study (2003;31:375-85), researchers found that:
“Maximum noise levels frequently exceeded the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s non-permissible level of 115 decibels, roughly equivalent to a pneumatic drill at a distance of one meter.”