Musical Training, Hearing Loss and the Aging Brain

As we grow older, we often experience difficulties understanding what a person is saying in the presence of other sounds (e.g., television, music, other people talking). Such age-related declines in listening are a major challenge for hearing science and medicine because of their widespread prevalence. Furthermore, hearing aid technologies have so far been unable to effectively alleviate this problem. Here, I will present studies that have investigated the role of musical training as a means to mitigate age-related decline in understanding speech in noise. Behavioral and neuroimaging studies provide converging evidence that musicians exhibit exceptional auditory skills that allow them to cope with age-related hearing loss better than non-musicians. In particular, continuous engagement in musical activities throughout adulthood is associated with slower age-related decline in understanding speech in noise. Neuroscience research has shown that musical training enhances the central auditory processing, which can compensate for peripheral hearing loss. The benefit of musical training on the aging auditory brain is exciting as it opens new avenues for developing new remediation programs and improving current rehabilitation protocols aimed at helping older adults in noisy environments.

Learning Objectives:
Participants who attend this presentation will be able to:
1. List three attributes of age-related hearing loss.
2. Portray the effects of musical training on brain plasticity.
3. Describe the role of musical training in mitigating age-related hearing loss.