Wired Magazine

After years of Mom telling you to turn off the music to protect your ears, there’s finally scientific evidence that music can be good for your hearing.New research reveals that musicians can pick out relevant speech sounds from a noisy environment better than non-musicians, suggesting that musical training helps people hear better under “speech-in-noise” conditions like a restaurant or crowded room. “Speech-in-noise is challenging for everyone, but it’s especially challenging for older adults and children with learning disabilities,” said neuroscientist Nina Kraus of Northwestern University, who co-authored the paper published this month in the journal Ear and Hearing. “If we could establish that musical experience could help perception of speech-in-noise, that has all kinds of provocative implications in terms of encouraging policy-makers and parents to pursue musical education for their kids.” Kraus and colleagues compared the performance of 16 musicians and 15 non-musicians on two tests of speech-in-noise perception. In the both experiments, participants had to listen to simple sentences under noisy conditions and repeat back what they heard. By adjusting the level of background noise and counting the number of correctly repeated words or sentences, the researchers calculated a threshold signal-to-noise ratio for each person. On both speech tests, musicians dramatically outperformed their non-musician counterparts and also demonstrated better working memory.


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