Musicians’ training results in better hearing

Posted on: October 20, 2009

Tuesday (10/20) on the National Public Radio website, Jon Hamilton reports, “Musical training can improve your hearing, according to several studies presented in Chicago at Neuroscience 2009, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. The studies found that serious musicians are better than other people at perceiving and remembering sounds. But it’s not because they have better ears. Sounds come in through the ears. But they travel through the nervous system and get interpreted by the brain. That means your hearing can change even if your ears don’t, says Nina Kraus, who directs the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University.” Kraus tested musicians’ ability to understand what someone was saying in a noisy room against nonmusicians’ ability to do the same. “Standard hearing tests had shown that the musicians’ ears weren’t any more sensitive than those of the other listeners. … Tests show that certain sounds produce stronger electrical signals in a musician’s brain stem, Kraus says. And, she says, these signals offer a more accurate representation of pitch, timing and tone quality—three things that help us pick out a single voice in a noisy room.”

Posted October 20, 2009