Musicians experience less age-related decline in central auditory processing

Psychol Aging. 2012 Jun;27(2):410-7. doi: 10.1037/a0024816. Epub 2011 Sep 12.


Age-related decline in auditory perception reflects changes in the peripheral and central auditory systems. These age-related changes include a reduced ability to detect minute spectral and temporal details in an auditory signal, which contributes to a decreased ability to understand speech in noisy environments. Given that musical training in young adults has been shown to improve these auditory abilities, we investigated the possibility that musicians experience less age-related decline in auditory perception. To test this hypothesis we measured auditory processing abilities in lifelong musicians (N = 74) and nonmusicians (N = 89), aged between 18 and 91. Musicians demonstrated less age-related decline in some auditory tasks (i.e., gap detection and speech in noise), and had a lifelong advantage in others (i.e., mistuned harmonic detection). Importantly, the rate of age-related decline in hearing sensitivity, as measured by pure-tone thresholds, was similar between both groups, demonstrating that musicians experience less age-related decline in central auditory processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cognitive Reserve*
  • Female
  • Hearing Tests / methods
  • Hearing Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music*
  • Noise
  • Pitch Perception
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult