Practice Makes…Preventive Hearing Loss

April 2012

Remember when your parents yelled at you to “cut out all that racket” while you were practicing in the garage? Yeah, me neither, but those of you who do may have more advantages than the rest of us in the future. Well, as long as you’ve been keeping it up and continue to do so for many years.

A study in 2011 focused on investigating the effects of long-term musical practice on auditory memory and the ability to discern speech in noisy environments in adults ranging from 45 to 65 years. As many know, it is typical for people to experience hearing loss, especially around this age range.

“Sorry, I can’t hear you over the applause for all of my success.”

Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University explains that even among older adults with similar age-related hearing loss, “it’s well known that adults with virtually the same hearing profile can differ dramatically in their ability to hear speech in noise.”

It’s not only a disadvantage in the physiological sense, but can also contribute to social isolation and depression. Communication is one of the most important aspects of life. When this essential skill becomes more of a problem for people, it is easy to understand the significance of finding ways to prevent this issue.

The results revealed musicians, who have been playing an instrument from age 9 or earlier and have continued to do so, scored much better with neurological tests involving hearing speech among noise, auditory working memory, and auditory temporal processing than their non-musician counterparts. All 18 musicians and 19 non-musicians were also subjected to visual working memory tests but had no significant differences between them.

Researchers found that auditory skills are sharpened over time as musicians must not only simply remember pieces of music, but must also be able to differentiate distinct sounds among others in a song. This allows them to be apt at extracting “relevant patterns, including the sound of their own instrument, harmonies and rhythms,” says Kraus.

So do yourself a favor and start the habit now. There are no guarantees and it can definitely be hard work, but it can also be fun and rewarding, which are much better alternatives than having to deal with the possible stress later on. One must keep in mind that it’s the practice and skills gained that help you, not turning the volume all the way up until your ears go numb. Now you’re just being counterproductive.


  1. Northwestern University (2011, May 11). Musical experience offsets some aging effects: Older musicians excel in memory and hearing speech in noise compared to non-musicians.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from­/releases/2011/05/110511170931.htm
  2. Alexandra Parbery-Clark, Dana L. Strait, Samira Anderson, Emily Hittner, Nina Kraus. Musical Experience and the Aging Auditory System: Implications for Cognitive Abilities and Hearing Speech in Noise. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (5): e18082 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018082


Also included in this issue was a graphic I made for Women’s History Month, which is actually March, or when I originally made it, but it had to be put in the April issue due to timing and other excuses. It’s not that great since I did it in a hurry, but it does have some interesting information.


  1. Britannica Editors. “10 Women Scientists Who Should Be Famous (or More Famous). Encyclopedia Britannica. March 10, 2011. Site visited March 17, 2012.
  2. Svitil, Kathy. “The 50 Most Important Women in Science.” Discover Magazine. November 1, 2002. Site visited March 17, 2012.

One thought on “Practice Makes…Preventive Hearing Loss

  1. Pingback: The Fingertips Project - The Fingertips Project: I Heard A Sound - Kittysneezes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s