Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Want to make sure you catch all the gossip at a noisy cocktail party even as you grow older and your hearing begins to fade? Learn a musical instrument and keep playing it throughout your life.

At least that's the conclusion of a new study that found that life-long musicians experience far fewer age-related hearing problems than their non-musical peers. The lead researcher, Benjamin Zendel, who conducted the study while working on his PhD at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, noted that some hearing loss can be attributed to a natural decline in the physical structures of the ear.

But, he added, hearing can also be compromised because of a decrease in the brain's ability to process auditory information, making it more difficult to distinguish different sounds. In particular, the elderly often have difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise, a condition described by scientists as the "cocktail party problem."

Story continues below advertisement

For the study, the researchers recruited 74 musicians (both professionals and amateurs) and 89 non-musicians, ranging in age from 18 to 91. They were put through a series of tests, including one in which they were asked to repeat a spoken sentence while the background sound is steadily increased in volume.

The results, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, suggest that a devotion to music can help delay the decline of some hearing abilities by as much as 20 years. For instance, the average 70-year-old musician was able to understand speech in a noisy environment as well as an average 50-year-old non-musician.

Dr. Zendel, who is now a research fellow at the University of Montreal, said musicians are partly shielded from age-related hearing loss because they are required to use their auditory skills at a very high level on a regular basis. "It's a case of use it or lose it," he explained.

"When you play [music]with a group of people – whether it is in a rock band or a symphony – you have to listen to what everyone else is doing to keep time with them," he said. "So it is a very demanding cognitive activity."

There can be a downside to prolonged exposure to loud music: hearing damage. Still, wearing special hearing protection can minimize such problems, he added.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies