can music do harm?

It’s…Complicated: A Theoretical model of music-induced harm.

As research has identified music’s ability to foster beneficial emotional, motor, sensory, cognitive, and social experiences, it has equally identified potential for music to do harm in these areas. Silverman et al. (2020) asserted and explored this premise, noting a need for more research on the topic and emphasizing its implications for state recognition of music-therapists to protect the public from potential risks associated with engaging in music practices with non-credentialed professionals. Authors reviewed past studies discussing instances in which certain music experiences correlated with hearing loss, presence of seizures, negative coping strategies, irregular heartbeat, social isolation, depression, or a decrease in attention, communication, or memory. Silverman et al. (2020) aimed to create an inclusive, theoretical model which could improve understanding of music-induced harm and help individuals (music therapists and non-music therapists alike) to maintain informed, healthy music practices. The resulting highlights relationships between the deliverer (possibly a music therapist) and the music, the recipient (possibly a patient) and the music, and the deliverer and recipient. Inability to point to any one element as a regular cause of harm harkens to inclusion of “complicated” in the article’s title. Silverman et al. (2020) further identified factors that should be examined and may influence music-induced harm. These included the deliverer’s education, training, personality, and potential biases, the recipient’s emotional state, communication methods, development, background, and identity, and the music’s volume, medium, duration, and selection process.


Silverman, M. J., Gooding, L. F., & Yinger, O. (2020). It’s…complicated: A theoretical model of music-induced harm. Journal of Music Therapy, 57(3), 251-281.