Some people may be protected from the hearing loss that often accompanies aging: yes, musicians. Scientists gave hearing tests to 74 musicians and 89 non-musicians. For the study, musicians had to be playing since at least age 16, and have a minimum of six years formal training.
Scientists tested: gap detection, the ability to hear brief breaks in continuous sound; mistuned harmonic detection, the ability to discern frequencies; speech in noise, the ability to hear conversation against a noisy background; and pure tone thresholds, this is the ability to hear tones as they get quieter.
Musicians had no advantage when it came to pure tone thresholds. But they performed significantly better in all other tests. The work is in the journal Psychology and Aging. [Link to come.]
The three tests in which musicians have an advantage all rely on higher-level processing in the brain, as opposed to analyzing input at the level of the ear. Which suggests that musical training makes the brain better at filtering sound.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]