musician hearingSpeech and music are two very different sounds, they have very different qualities. For instance, speech is a high frequency phenomenon where 71% of speech sounds are frequencies above 1Khz, in contrast to music where 71% of sounds are below 1Khz therefore considered a low frequency phenomenon, so although music and speech overlap acoustically the two impact on the human brain in unique ways. It has become apparent that as a result it is theorised that an over-exposure to speech and/or music, musicians and non musicians display different qualities with regards to cognitive processing of sound.

Research has indicated that individuals who have had music training have better speech discrimination and display a greater ability to communicate in background noise, one particular study indicated that musicians with an average age of 70 understood speech as well as non musicians with an average age of 50. Cognitive research suggests that music performance requires more cognitive ability and is linked to an increase in grey matter in somatosensory, premotor, superior pariatel and inferior temporal areas of the brain. These differences suggest that as audiologists, we need to re-consider how we think about hearing and listening when preventing and treating hearing loss. Additionally, it could also be suggested that in order to minimise the effect of ageing on your auditory system that music training could be the answer.

When treating hearing loss particularly with hearing aids, musicians can be challenging. Through music training they have trained there brain to cope with low frequencies, hearing aids are orientated towards high frequencies and counselling should be tailored to suit the patient. It is also important that musicians do not wear hearing aids in environments where noise exceeds 85db.

As neuroscience research integrates further into audiology, hopefully it will increase the understand of the cognitive processes and lead to better hearing aid processing strategies. If you feel that you are struggling with speech processing or hearing in background noise then why not speech to our hearing specialist today call us on 01494 765144 for advice.