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musicians better at auditory cognition

Desert Dancer 16 May 11 - 02:58 PM
terrier 16 May 11 - 04:09 PM
Hamish 17 May 11 - 04:04 AM
mayomick 17 May 11 - 11:11 AM
GUEST,leeneia 17 May 11 - 01:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 May 11 - 03:11 PM
Weasel 17 May 11 - 03:31 PM
PoppaGator 17 May 11 - 04:46 PM
GUEST,leeneia 17 May 11 - 05:28 PM
terrier 17 May 11 - 08:12 PM
JennieG 17 May 11 - 10:48 PM
GUEST,leeneia 18 May 11 - 12:31 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 18 May 11 - 09:58 AM
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Subject: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 16 May 11 - 02:58 PM

The article headline is Playing An Instrument May Help Preserve Hearing, but mine might be more accurate:

Some hearing loss is a common — and nearly unavoidable — effect of aging. A third of people 60 and older have lost some of their ability to hear.

But some intriguing research suggests a habit that might help offset the effects of aging on hearing. A study, published recently in the online science journal PLoS One, found that among middle-aged adults, being a lifelong musician was associated with better hearing later in life.

"The instrument you play does not seem to be important here," says Nina Kraus, a biologist, director of Northwestern University's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory and co-author of the study. "It is really the act of engagement of playing the instrument that matters."

Participants in the study were between ages 45 and 65. Researchers tested 18 musicians who had been playing an instrument since age nine or younger, and 19 nonmusicians who had less than three years of music training. The musicians had statistically better auditory memory scores and tested better at hearing speech in noisy environments. They also showed better auditory temporal processing abilities, which relate to how people interpret speech sounds.

However, the two groups tied when researchers tested visual working memory skills. Kraus says that's significant. "It isn't as though musical training has a volume knob effect that makes all kinds of sensory processing enhanced in the same manor," Kraus says. "It focuses on auditory skill."

The latest findings follow earlier research from Kraus that showed musicians in a younger age bracket had better hearing skills. At the same time, some research has shown that musicians who play in large ensembles may face an occupational hazard when it comes to their hearing.

But Kraus said that her study used only people that researchers found had normal hearing. The difference, she said, was how the musicians used their hearing abilities.

Does this effect apply to the guy who plays in a community band one night a week? Kraus says no. To be included in the study, musicians were required to have engaged in musical activities — practicing, teaching or performing — at least three times a week.

"What we do with our time and how we engage our senses and our thinking seems to really shape the people we become in very basic ways — in ways that effect how our senses work," she says.

And, Kraus says, a person doesn't need to be an Itzhak Perlman or a Yo-Yo Ma to experience the effects. Talent, she says, isn't a factor.

Kraus says that more research needs to be done to see whether receiving music instruction later in life might yield the same benefits.

--

[PLoS One is open-access, so the link to the original research above should work for you.]

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: terrier
Date: 16 May 11 - 04:09 PM

snip/
The musicians had statistically better auditory memory scores and tested better at hearing speech in noisy environments
                                                      snip/

As a lifelong musician, when I'm playing in a session or with a music group, I find it easy to listen to each individual instrument and can tell what they're playing, even though the instrument may be the quietest in the group (unless the general noise level in the room is TOO loud). This doesn't apply to voice. Unlike the findings in the study, I have difficulty 'locking on' to a conversation in a noisy environment. Just maybe, because I've spent years playing with other musicians and having to listen to what they are playing as individuals, my brain is unconciously trying to listen to too much at once and so unable to listen to just one person talking in a crowded room where a number are talking at once. This seems to fly in the face of the studies findings, but I'm sure, the more work done on the subject, more interesting results will come out if it.
I recently had a hearing test and the results showed that I had above normal hearing in the higher spectrum and some hearing loss to lower pitched sound, evidently, this is the wrong way round for someone of my age (60+), so maybe I wouldn't be a good subject for this study.


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: Hamish
Date: 17 May 11 - 04:04 AM

Not if you're Pete Townshend :-(


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: mayomick
Date: 17 May 11 - 11:11 AM

Didn't help Ludwig much either


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 17 May 11 - 01:19 PM

"What we do with our time and how we engage our senses and our thinking seems to really shape the people we become..."

This ties in with a book I recently read on treatment for autistic children. The author stressed that the brain is malleable. What we put into it shapes its growth.

Before reading that, I thought of the brain as a sophisticated electronic device. It is a maze of neurons and sheathing, where neurotransmitters zip across synapses.

Now I have an additional metaphor. It is a mass of Play-doh, and when we punch it, it dips in.    and so forth

It seems reasonable that a musician who works with sound hours a week develops a brain which is more attuned to sounds in general.


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 May 11 - 03:11 PM

As terrier remarks there, it doesn't seem to help picking out voices in a noiusy setting.


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: Weasel
Date: 17 May 11 - 03:31 PM

I've been a musician all my life - I have hellish problems trying to hear what people are saying in a noisy room, in the pub for example.

(But I can hear a car approaching the house long before anyone else hears it.)

All the best,

Weasel


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: PoppaGator
Date: 17 May 11 - 04:46 PM

My hearing has been deteriorating for years, probably since my mid-50s.

I had always anticipated that hearing "loss" meant that one would be living in relative silence, but my experience has been exactly the opposite. My problem is a decreasing ability to hear what I want to hear over the increasingly overwhelming muddle of background noise.

It had not occurred to me that individual instruments would be easier to discern than singing voices, but after reading the above, I think that may be true. I have trouble hearing people speak in all but the quietest environments; I'll be checking now to see if I have the same trouble picking up human singing voices, if they're more difficult to hear than instrumental sounds.

Even before I started aging and noticing hearing problems in general, I was NEVER able to carry on conversations while music is playing live (e.g., in bars). Part of it is not wanting to talk BS while I'd rather be listening to music, but I think that I have always found it just too difficult to make out speech while loud, or even moderately-loud, music is competing for my attention.


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 17 May 11 - 05:28 PM

Poppagator, you might be helped by hearing protectors. They are designed for industrial settings, where workers want to block the sound of machines but wish to hear people speaking.

I carry them with me at all times. I like the soft, squishy kind (Mack or generic) which you mold to fit your ear. Sometimes I put them in farther than other times. For example, at a loud concert, I leave some open space so that the music sounds more natural but not as loud.

On airplanes, I use them and put headphones for music right over them. The music comes through (I pick high music like flute sonatas) but the engine noise is blocked. I'm sure vocals would come through too.

The next time you are in a noisy restaurant (is there any other kind?) give them a try.


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: terrier
Date: 17 May 11 - 08:12 PM

I don't mean to poke fun at your post leeneia but, honestly, some years ago, I heard a comment from a guy who liked loud rock. He said that the best way to listen to live music at a rock concert was to put cigarette filters in your ears, evidently they work a treat.
I'm comforted to read that it's not just me who has trouble hearing speech in noisy environments. Maybe our ears are all similar but we just train our brains to use them in different ways.


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: JennieG
Date: 17 May 11 - 10:48 PM

Wonder if this applies to singers too - people who don't have any instrument except their voice?

Cheers
JennieG


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 May 11 - 12:31 AM

the best way to listen to live music at a rock concert was to put cigarette filters in your ears

Words fail me.


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Subject: RE: musicians better at auditory cognition
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 18 May 11 - 09:58 AM

Speak up luv!

I heard that bit about talent not being a factor, and i was instantly encouraged!


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