Musical Training Can Overcome Age-related Hearing Loss

Posted by: The Bristal

Dear Readers,

Hmmmm… did you know that lifelong musical training, particularly when continued late in life, can help overcome age-related hearing loss, according to an interesting new study? Are there any musicians or serious music aficionados out there? Have you heard about “developing an ear”? Well, here’s some good news. Listen up.

Researchers at Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory measured how the brains of young musicians, older musicians, and non-musicians responded to auditory stimuli. As published in the journal of Neurobiology of Aging, they found that older musicians had what they called a “distinct neural advantage” over young musicians and non-musicians — which suggests the notion, investigators claim, that the brain can be trained to overcome, at least to a degree, some age-related hearing loss. The study goes onto suggest that “intensive training even late in life could improve speech processing in older adults and, as a result, could improve their ability to communicate in complex, noisy environments.”

So, what does it all mean? It means that one needn’t have been a young Itzhak Pearlman or a Yoyo Ma to hear better now as a senior — or even have been a musician at all. It means we can all adapt what’s been learned from these gifted musicians to retrain our non-musician ears to hear better even today as aging adults. So, my friends, go ahead, and take up piano lessons, or turn up your stereos or iPods — and the sooner the better. Feel free to further cultivate your musical appreciation. It could just help you ears hear better… that is, so long as you’re not head banging to heavy metal at full blast! But if you are, turn down the volume… but definitely rock on!

Maryellen McKeon

Source: McKnight’s LTC News Online; January 2012

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