I grew up in the '80s liking rock 'n' roll, but lately I can't stand music with a lot of bass. Every time some whippersnapper drives by, their bass seems really loud. Am I getting old or is this something new?
Portland is a poor town in which to be anti-rock, Fogey. Still, let's look at the facts.
You say you "grew up in the '80s liking rock 'n' roll." Does that mean you were on the barrier at the Wipers' final show? Or does it mean you sometimes listened to the radio on your way to Blockbuster thinking, "Man, that Huey Lewis sure is something"?
If (as I suspect) it's the latter, congratulations. You're not getting old, you were always old!
This is not a criticism—being old at heart is underrated. If all goes well, humans spend half of their adult lives being over 40. If your disposition is well-suited to waving your cane at children while raving about the Depression, you'll spend the bulk of your life feeling comfortable in your own (increasingly looser-fitting) skin.
Conversely, if you're a 40-something newspaper columnist who still plays in a rock band and spends his weekends hanging out in front of Hot Topic trying to find 21-year-olds to buy him skinny jeans, your life is probably just going to get weirder and weirder.
In any case, there are sound scientific reasons for your visceral response to the bottom end. Researchers have discovered that a part of the inner ear called the saccule, which is partially responsible for balance, is activated by loud, low-frequency sound.
In the same way that the vestibular canals (keep up, kids) in the middle ear stimulate unconscious muscle activity to keep us upright, vibration of the saccule causes an unconscious urge to, at the very least, bob one's head in time to the music. From there, it's just a short step to the mosh pit—or to the motion-sickness pills, depending on your inclination.