June 12, 2012
Musical training may delay age-related hearing loss
Many people experience hearing loss as they get older. However, a new study suggests that musical training from an early age could account for why older musicians have better hearing than non-musicians.
Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist from Northwestern University in Illinois, USA, has found that the brain can be trained to overcome some age-related hearing loss. Her study shows that people, for whom music has been a part of their life since childhood, had an advantage when distinguishing one consonant from another.
Neural timing, which is the brain’s ability to decode and recode audio stimuli, becomes weaker in most people as a result of ageing. But the results of Nina Kraus’ study indicate that these delays in neural timing are not inevitable.
Her research and results were published online in the journal of Neurobiology of Aging.
In the study, the participants were exposed to speech sounds while they watched a captioned video. The researchers behind the study measured their automatic neural responses and were able to conclude that older musicians had an advantage compared to non-musicians.
Nina Kraus states that the study shows no evidence of neural timing advantages in musicians, though. But the findings are still very important since they provide proof that the brain can be trained to overcome, in part, some age-related hearing loss.
Don Caspary, a Ph.D. and a well known researcher of age-related hearing loss in the US, agrees that the new findings are helpful in further research.
“The results from Nina Kraus’ study along with additional research strongly suggest that intensive training even late in life could improve speech processing in older adults and, as a result, improve their ability to communicate,” says Don Caspary.