Old Man

Older individuals are known to lose their capacity to hear gradually. However, aging-related hearing loss could be delayed by means of musical training, claim scientists from the Northwestern University.

The team analyzed data from clinical trials as well those from animal studies, which revealed that senior citizens exposed to musical sessions even at a later stage of life could enhance their speech processing abilities. This may subsequently improve their capacity to interact in noisy surroundings too.

For the study, younger and older musicians were pitted against each other, after which their automatic brain responses were measured. The participants who were considered as musicians received musical training before the age of 9 and were involved in musical training all through their lives. Non-musicians were engaged in musical training for a span of 3 years or less.

“The older musicians not only outperformed their older non-musician counterparts, they encoded the sound stimuli as quickly and accurately as the younger non-musicians. This reinforces the idea that how we actively experience sound over the course of our lives has a profound effect on how our nervous system functions,” commented Northwestern neuroscientist Nina Kraus.

According to the results, older musicians seemingly possessed a distinct advantage related to neural timing. Importantly, the findings did not suggest that musicians have a neural timing advantage in all the neural responses to acoustics. Rather, the team asserted that musical sessions objectively influenced the timing of sound components that is crucial to differentiate one consonant from the other.

The study titled, ‘Musical experience offsets age-related delays in neural timing’ is published in the journal, Neurobiology of Aging.