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August 19, 2009

Music Can Help Understanding Speech in Noisy Environments?


Many older adults will say, 'I can hear what you're saying, but I don't understand you,' especially in a location where there is background noise (such as a restaurant) leading to frustration and social isolation. However, new research is offering tantalizing clues to prevent this from happening through music training.

Musical training makes musicians really good at picking out melodies, such as the treble line or the sound of their own instruments, from surrounding complex sounds. This improved perception in noise in musicians was linked with better working memory and tone discrimination ability. The results imply that musical training enhances the ability to hear speech in challenging listening environments by strengthening auditory memory and the representation of important acoustic features

Thirty-one study participants, with normal hearing and a mean age of 23, were divided into one group with music experience and another without it. They had to listen to sentences presented in increasingly noisy conditions and repeat back what they heard. The music group did significantly better.

The study does suggest that by reinforcing the pervasive effects that musical experience has on sound-processing abilities, better speech understanding can be obtained in noisy environments and underscores the importance of music education being more accessible to the general population

Read the story here.

Reference:
Alexandra Parbery-Clark, Erika Skoe, Carrie Lam and Nina Kraus. Musician Enhancement for Speech-in-Noise. Ear and Hearing, (in press)
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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