September 17, 2011

CANADA: Aging musicians’ ears filter background noise

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia / The Chronicle Herald / Science / September 17, 2011

TORONTO (CP) — Aging musicians appear to have a significant advantage over their non-musical peers.

A new study suggests that years of playing and practising music may protect musicians’ ability to process what they hear as they get older.

In particular, the study finds the increasingly tricky task of tuning in to speech and tuning out background noise is easier for musicians than for people who don’t play an instrument.

The research, which is published Tuesday in the journal Psychology and Aging, compares non-musicians to people with lifelong musical experience, whether they are professional or amateurs musicians.

"It’s fairly common knowledge that older adults have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments. And that ability slowly gets worse as we get older," says lead author Benjamin Zendel, of the University of Montreal’s Brams Institute.

"What we’ve shown here is that musicians, as they get older, don’t get quite as bad their non-musician counterparts, to the point where a musician at age 70 is able to understand speech and noise at about the same level as a non-musician who’s 50."

In performing music over a period of years, people build up a part of their brain involved in the processing of sound. As they age, their abilities in this area decline more slowly than non-musicians.

Also read:
Lifelong Musicians Hear Better Than the Rest of Us

© 2011 The Halifax Herald Limited

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