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Can Music Help to Slow The Rate of Hearing Loss?

by April Maguire

Hearing loss happens to all of us at one point or another. According to the most recent statistics, nearly 50 million people in the United States alone suffer from some degree of hearing loss. As you may expect, the majority of the problem is concentrated in the elderly population, as roughly one in three people over the age of 65 have trouble hearing.

So can anything be done about it? Or are we all just destined to lose our hearing as we age?

As it turns out, hearing loss is not a foregone conclusion. Early intervention, such as wearing hearing aids or other assistive devices, can help you to retain your natural hearing. But there is another remedy that is even more surprising: music.

The Onset of Hearing Loss

In the early stages of hearing loss, one of the most common symptoms is the inability to follow conversations in a loud or crowded space. Even people who can hear perfectly well in quiet one-on-one settings will often lose track of the other person's voice once they're surrounded by other noises competing for their attention.

Believe it or not, this inability to track conversations in noisy environments doesn't actually have much to do with your ears. Rather, it stems from a problem with the way your brain parses out sounds. For people with hearing loss, their brains can have a difficult time separating speech from all the other ambient noise. Yet incredibly enough, musicians seem to experience this problem at a significantly lower rate than their peers.

The Power of Music

Past research indicates that aging musicians are actually better at picking out speech from surrounding sounds, even when their overall hearing ability is on par with their non-musical peers. One of the theories behind this phenomenon is that musicians – and more importantly their brains – are trained to recognize and follow certain pitches. This skill allows them to keep track of voices even amidst a cacophony of noise.

To further explore this area of study, a team of researchers at the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto has created an experimental choir of sorts, made up of older adults who are suffering from hearing loss. For the study, this group practices vocal performances, undergoes lessons and even uses music software in their spare time to get better at tracking and identifying different tonal pitches. At the end of the trial, this group's hearing ability will be tested against two other different control groups.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to present their findings later this summer. But if their experiment proves successful, then participating in musical activities could be a fun and easy way for older adults to preserve their hearing ability.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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