Age-related decline in hearing abilities is a ubiquitous part of aging, and commonly impacts speech understanding, especially when there are competing sound sources. While such age effects are partially due to changes within the cochlea, difficulties typically exist beyond measurable hearing loss, suggesting that central brain processes, as opposed to simple peripheral mechanisms (e.g., hearing sensitivity), play a critical role in governing hearing abilities late into life. Current training regimens aimed to improve central auditory processing abilities have experienced limited success in promoting listening benefits. Interestingly, recent studies suggest that in young adults, musical training positively modifies neural mechanisms, providing robust, long-lasting improvements to hearing abilities as well as to non-auditory tasks that engage cognitive control. These results offer the encouraging possibility that musical training might be used to counteract age-related changes in auditory cognition commonly observed in older adults. Here, we reviewed studies that have examined the effects of age and musical experience on auditory cognition with an emphasis on auditory scene analysis. We infer that musical training may offer potential benefits to complex listening and might be utilized as a means to delay or even attenuate declines in auditory perception and cognition that often emerge later in life.
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