Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Older musicians experience less age-related decline in hearing abilities than non-musicians

Date:
September 14, 2011
Source:
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
Summary:
A study led by Canadian researchers has found the first evidence that lifelong musicians experience less age-related hearing problems than non-musicians. While hearing studies have already shown that trained musicians have highly developed auditory abilities compared to non-musicians, this is the first study to examine hearing abilities in musicians and non-musicians across the age spectrum -- from 18 to 91 years of age.

A study led by Canadian researchers has found the first evidence that lifelong musicians experience less age-related hearing problems than non-musicians.

While hearing studies have already shown that trained musicians have highly developed auditory abilities compared to non-musicians, this is the first study to examine hearing abilities in musicians and non-musicians across the age spectrum -- from 18 to 91 years of age.

The study was led by Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute in Toronto and is published online Sept. 13 in the journal Psychology and Aging, ahead of print publication.

Investigators wanted to determine if lifelong musicianship protects against normal hearing decline in later years, specifically for central auditory processing associated with understanding speech. Hearing problems are prevalent in the elderly, who often report having difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise. Scientists describe this as the "cocktail party problem." Part of this difficulty is due to an age-related decrease in the ability to detect and discriminate acoustic information from the environment.

"What we found was that being a musician may contribute to better hearing in old age by delaying some of the age-related changes in central auditory processing. This advantage widened considerably for musicians as they got older when compared to similar-aged non-musicians," said lead investigator Benjamin Rich Zendel at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute. Zendel is completing his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Toronto and conducted the study with senior cognitive scientist and assistant director of the Rotman Research Institute, Dr. Claude Alain.

In the study, 74 musicians (ages 19-91) and 89 non-musicians (ages 18-86) participated in a series of auditory assessments. A musician was defined as someone who started musical training by the age of 16, continued practicing music until the day of testing, and had an equivalent of at least six years of formal music lessons. Non-musicians in the study did not play any musical instrument.

Wearing insert earphones, participants sat in a soundproof room and completed four auditory tasks that assessed pure tone thresholds (ability to detect sounds that grew increasingly quieter); gap detection (ability to detect a short silent gap in an otherwise continuous sound, which is important for perceiving common speech sounds such as the words that contain "aga" or ata"); mistuned harmonic detection (ability to detect the relationship between different sound frequencies, which is important for separating sounds that are occurring simultaneously in a noisy environment); and speech-in-noise (ability to hear a spoken sentence in the presence of background noise).

Scientists found that being a musician did not offer any advantage in the pure-tone thresholds test, across the age span. However, in the three other auditory tasks -- mistuned harmonic detection, gap detection and speech-in-noise -- musicians showed a clear advantage over non-musicians and this advantage gap widened as both groups got older. By age 70, the average musician was able to understand speech in a noisy environment as well as an average 50 year old non-musician, suggesting that lifelong musicianship can delay this age-related decline by 20 years.

Most importantly, the three assessments where musicians demonstrated an advantage all rely on auditory processing in the brain, while pure-tone thresholds do not. This suggests that lifelong musicianship mitigates age-related changes in the brains of musicians, which is probably due to musicians using their auditory systems at a high level on a regular basis. In other words, "use it or lose it."

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Benjamin Rich Zendel, Claude Alain. Musicians experience less age-related decline in central auditory processing.. Psychology and Aging, 2011; DOI: 10.1037/a0024816

Cite This Page:

Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. "Older musicians experience less age-related decline in hearing abilities than non-musicians." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110913091557.htm>.
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. (2011, September 14). Older musicians experience less age-related decline in hearing abilities than non-musicians. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110913091557.htm
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. "Older musicians experience less age-related decline in hearing abilities than non-musicians." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110913091557.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Nigerian authorities have shut and quarantined a Lagos hospital where a Liberian man died of the Ebola virus, the first recorded case of the highly-infectious disease in Africa's most populous economy. David Pollard reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Newsy (July 29, 2014) According to a new study, just five minutes of running or jogging a day could add years to your life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Newsy (July 29, 2014) The Ebola outbreak in West Africa poses little threat to Americans, according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins