Musical Training for Adults Enhances Speech in Noise Perception: Clinical implications for audiology

The inability of older adults to communicate easily in social settings has become major challenge for hearing healthcare because of its prevalence and its negative impact on quality of life. Hearing aids, although helpful, do not restore the older adult’s speech in noise performance to that of normal hearing younger adults. Furthermore, many older adults at the onset of these perceptual difficulties do not feel ready to use hearing aids, and some may not demonstrate a loss of hearing sensitivity on the audiogram. Although auditory training programs are available, these are rarely offered as a treatment option to adults with these complaints. The biggest shortcoming with the current training programs is that the task specific performance gains often are not transferable to the real=world perceptual problems. Speech in noise perception improves within the confines of the training program but rarely outside of it.

Mounting evidence shows musical training can improve speech perception in noise, with musicians providing superior performance on speech in noise tests over non-musicians. Even short term musical training can have beneficial effects for speech perception in noise. My lecture provides an overview of the neuroscience literature illuminating the neural processes honed by musical training.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the importance of sensory stimulation on maintaining the CNS infrastructure
  2. Understand how hearing loss can lead to maladaptive changes in the CNS function
  3. Understand how the behavioural relevance matters to neuroplastic changes in the CNS
  4. Understand how musical practice can have a positive impact on the aging CNS
  5. Understand how we as audiologists can help our patient’s aging auditory system