Musical expertise helps make older adults better listeners

May 10, 2023 | Blog, Quiet Coalition

Photo credit: Yuting Gao

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

EurekAlert! reports on a recent study in Science Advances by Chinese researchers that found long-term musical training could help mitigate and perhaps counteract speech-in-noise perception in older listeners.

As EurekAlert! notes, the world’s population is aging with cognitive decline common as people age. Cognitive decline is not inevitable, with the UK journal The Lancet reporting that about 40% of dementia cases are theoretically preventable. Of the possibly modifiable risk factors for dementia, hearing loss is the largest single risk factor.

The Chinese study found that “long-term musical training could mitigate and even counteract age-related decline of audiovisual speech-in-noise perception in older listeners, through functional preservation of youth-like patterns in sensorimotor areas, supplemented by functional compensation in frontoparietal and default mode network regions.”

I lack the neuroscience or audiology background to understand the research, and I’m not sure the brain can be made young, but the idea that musical training could improve speech-in-noise functioning and make the brain more “youth-like” might be enough for me to pick up my guitar again.


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