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Science finding is music to the ears
Date:9/13/2011

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 today 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 t
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Contact: Kelly Connelly
kconnelly@baycrest.org
416-785-2432
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
Source:Eurekalert

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