Musical training heads off age-related hearing difficulties, study finds

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Lifelong musical training — particularly when continued late in life — can help overcome age-related hearing loss, a new study finds.

Researchers at Northwestern University's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory measured how the brains of young musicians, older musicians and non-musicians responded to auditory stimuli. They found that older musicians had a distinct neural advantage over young musicians and non-musicians.

Independent researchers say that Northwestern's findings, in conjunction with earlier animal studies, support the idea that the brain can be trained to overcome, in part, some age-related hearing loss.

Additionally, the results suggest that “intensive training even late in life could improve speech processing in older adults and, as a result, improve their ability to communicate in complex, noisy acoustic environments,” Don Caspary, Ph.D., a researcher in the field of age-related hearing loss at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine said.

The study was published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.