Music Training and Education Slow the Deterioration of Music Perception Produced by Presbycusis in the Elderly

Front Aging Neurosci. 2017 May 19;9:149. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00149. eCollection 2017.


The perception of music depends on the normal function of the peripheral and central auditory system. Aged subjects without hearing loss have altered music perception, including pitch and temporal features. Presbycusis or age-related hearing loss is a frequent condition in elderly people, produced by neurodegenerative processes that affect the cochlear receptor cells and brain circuits involved in auditory perception. Clinically, presbycusis patients have bilateral high-frequency hearing loss and deteriorated speech intelligibility. Music impairments in presbycusis subjects can be attributed to the normal aging processes and to presbycusis neuropathological changes. However, whether presbycusis further impairs music perception remains controversial. Here, we developed a computerized version of the Montreal battery of evaluation of amusia (MBEA) and assessed music perception in 175 Chilean adults aged between 18 and 90 years without hearing complaints and in symptomatic presbycusis patients. We give normative data for MBEA performance in a Latin-American population, showing age and educational effects. In addition, we found that symptomatic presbycusis was the most relevant factor determining global MBEA accuracy in aged subjects. Moreover, we show that melodic impairments in presbycusis individuals were diminished by music training, while the performance in temporal tasks were affected by the educational level and music training. We conclude that music training and education are important factors as they can slow the deterioration of music perception produced by age-related hearing loss.

Keywords: MBEA; aging; amusia; elderly; music; music perception; presbycusis.