Learning music may offset some of the effects of ageing and improve the listening ability of older generations, as it “fine tunes” the nervous system, the study shows.
"Lifelong musical training appears to confer advantages in at least two important functions known to decline with age - memory and the ability to hear speech in noise," explains researcher Professor Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Illinois, US.
The scientists carried out tests of memory and speech recognition on 18 musicians and 19 non-musicians aged 45 to 65.
All the musicians started learning an instrument at the age of nine or earlier and had continued to play throughout their lives. In the tests, the musicians outperformed the non-musician group in auditory memory and sound processing tasks. They were also better at detecting speech against background noise.
Music is good, but watch out for the volume
Noise is, however, still among the main causes of hearing loss, and all musicians should therefore be aware of the volume when they play.