Hearing Loss, Music, and Brain Health
With hearing loss often comes the loss of the enjoyment of music and discourages many from listening, playing and singing even if they once did. Much research now says that can be a blow to brain health, cognitive functioning and more.
The Journal of Neurophysiology reports that as we age, the decreased ability to understand what people say when noise is present is not just a function of our ears. While hearing loss is typically caused by damage to the hair cells within the inner ear and/or to the auditory nerves, new attention is being paid to subtler ways that our hearing can be impaired.
A study published in PLOS-ONE found that damage to the synapses (the structures where signals are transmitted between nerve cells) in auditory nerve cells can contribute to reduced hearing sensitivity. Standard hearing tests don’t detect these types of impairment so there’s no way to know how many people may be suffering from so-called hidden hearing loss.
Now research suggests that musical training may benefit those parts of the brain that underlie “selective attention” to speech. Musicians display strengthened brain networks for what is called “selective auditory attention” that non-musicians do not. Music might provide a potential benefit to auditory attention and musical training may aid in the prevention and remediation of individuals with a wide range of attention-based language, listening and learning impairments.
“There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does,” says one Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.” Listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.
For enjoying music you also have to improve your hearing if you are experiencing any hearing loss. Hearing aids are medical devices and it has to be dispensed & programmed ONLY by Audiologists who have many years of university training & experience in the field Audiology & Hearing Science. NOT everyone who sells hearing aids is an Audiologist. Please do your homework before purchasing hearing aids. An audiologist can program and fine tune your hearing aids that you will be able connect to your loved ones, enjoy your favorite music and stimulate your brain at the same time.
by Mimi T. Salamat, Ph.D., CCC-A, FAAA
Clinical Audiologist and Tinnitus Specialist
Walnut Creek, CA
*Portions of this article were reported in the Hearing Journal.