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Can Music Help Ward Off Hearing Loss

by Beth - August 23rd, 2011.
Filed under: Hearing Loss, News. Tagged as: , .

Warding Off Hearing Loss with Music?

From NPR News – Morning Edition

Many people have problems understanding conversation around noise. This kind of deterioration of hearing comes from damage to the nerve endings that transmits sounds from our ears to our brains. And as we age it gets worse. How can you stave off that kind of hearing loss? Current research suggests embracing music early in life.

“If you spend a lot of your life interacting with sound in an active manner, then your nervous system has made lots of sound-to-meaning connections” that can strengthen your auditory system, says Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University.

Musicians spend so time and effort in training their ears to hear the tonal differences between notes that they develop a much more acute sense of hearing than non-musicians.

So Kraus wondered: Could that musical training also help fend off age-related hearing loss? To help her find out, she assembled a  group of middle-aged musicians and non musicians, aged 45-65. Both groups were put through a series of tests measuring their ability to understand and repeat a variety of sentences spoken in noisy background environments.

As it turns out, musicians were 40 percent better than non-musicians at tuning out the background noise and understanding the sentences, as Kraus reported in PloS ONE. The musicians were also better able to remember the sentences than the non-musicians — and that made it easier for them to follow a line of conversation. After all, Kraus says, in order to listen to a friend in a noisy restaurant, you need to be able to recall what was said a few seconds ago in order to make sense of what you’re hearing right now.

The take-home message: If you’re an older musician, don’t stop playing. And if you gave it up, it may be time to dust off the old violin.

Read the whole story @ NPR.

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