Lifestyle & Belief

Music to one's ears: musicians "have better hearing"


Members of "the Ger Mandolin Orchestra," a memorial project of reviving the Jewish Mandolin Orchestra that was active in Gora Kalwaria, south of the capital Warsaw, between 1920 to 1930, prepare for a concert, on Sept. 3, 2011.


Wojtek Radwanski

Musicians may have better hearing than the rest of us, according to a new Canadian study – which found that playing an instrument throughout your life protects your hearing in old age.

Published in Psychology and Aging, the study centered on a series of hearing tests that were done on 74 musicians, and 89 people of the non-musical variety.

The musicians studied had all played since the age of 16, were still practising and had been given formal music training.

The study found that the hearing of a 70-year-old musician was as good as that of a 50-year-old person who did not play an instrument.

It also found that musicians were much better at picking out speech against noise.

A research team at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, studied adults from ages 18 to 91.

The BBC reported that hearing normally declines as we age:

By 60, 10-30 percent of people have moderate hearing loss. By 80, that goes up to as many as 60 percent.

Benjamin Zendel, who was part of the research team, told the BBC:

We found that being a musician may contribute to better hearing in old age by delaying some of the age-related changes in central auditory processing.

This advantage widened considerably for musicians as they got older when compared to similar-aged non-musicians.

The group Action on Hearing Loss called for all people to be vigilant in preventing hearing loss in the first place, by using “appropriate ear protection”.