Musicians, trained to hear sounds embedded in a rich network of melodies and harmonies, are primed to understand speech in a noisy background.
“The study points to a highly pragmatic side of music’s magic,” said Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology and director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, where the research was done.
The results support the potential use of musical training to address auditory processing and communication disorders.
“Musical training makes musicians really good at picking out melodies, the bass line, the sound of their own instruments from complex sounds,” Kraus said. Now, for the first time, this study has confirmed that such fine tuning of the nervous system also makes musicians highly adept at translating speech in noise.
Better perception in noise was linked with better working memory and tone discrimination ability. Musical training may enhance the ability to hear speech in challenging listening environments by strengthening auditory memory and the representation of important acoustic features.
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