EVANSTON, Ill., Jan. 31 (UPI) — The brain can be trained to overcome, in part, some age-related hearing loss in those with musical training, U.S. researchers suggest.
Neuroscientist Nina Kraus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., said age-related delays in neural timing are not inevitable and can be avoided or offset with musical training.
Researchers measured the automatic neural responses of 87 normal-hearing, native English-speaking adults to speech sounds delivered to them as they watched a captioned video.
Musician participants began musical training before age 9 and engaged consistently in musical activities through their lives, while non-musicians had three years or less of musical training, Kraus said.
Measuring the automatic brain responses of younger and older musicians and non-musicians to speech sounds, researchers in the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory discovered older musicians had a distinct neural timing advantage, Kraus said.
However, Kraus warned, the study’s findings were not pervasive and do not demonstrate that musicians have a neural timing advantage in every neural response to sound.
“Instead, this study showed that musical experience selectively affected the timing of sound elements that are important in distinguishing one consonant from another,” Kraus said in a statement.
The findings were published online in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.