The brain adjusts to some hearing loss so that you can still enjoy music or even learn to play an instrument or sing in a chorus or choir. Check out the site, Am I Too Old To Learn Music? - Monster Music Lessons.
It is never too late to learn how to play an instrument. Research has been done to see whether music can only be learned by younger people and the results undoubtedly say ‘no.’ Learning how to play piano at an older age, for instance, has been recommended by therapists to keep the mind mentally active to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia as well as various brain-related illnesses and cognitive decline as we all age. Not only is learning to play an instrument good for the mind, but it is also good for alleviating stress and improving coordination.
See the article, Benefits of childhood music lessons may extend into old age. You might want to see a study that finds the length of musical training in childhood is associated with less cognitive decline in old age. But the study showed that those with at least 10 years of musical training performed best on cognitive tests, followed by those with just one to nine years of musical study.
Basically, the study found that the length of musical training in childhood is associated with less cognitive decline in old age. The study looked at just 70 older adults aged 60 to 83 who started taking music lessons on any instrument at about age 10.
Half the high-level musicians still played an instrument in old age. But those who still played an instrument didn't really perform better on cognitive tests than the other advanced musicians who stopped playing years earlier.A study involving 70 older adults (60-83) has found that those with at least ten years of musical training performed the best on cognitive tests, followed by those with one to nine years of musical study, with those with no musical training trailing the field. Previous research suggests that both years of musical participation and age of acquisition are critical. Yet alll the participants had similar levels of education and fitness.
The cognitive tests related to visuospatial memory, (the ability to understand visual representations and their spatial relationships) naming objects, and executive function. You can read the 2011 study, "The relation between instrumental musical activity and cognitive aging." Neuropsychology, 25 (3), 378-86. Hanna-Pladdy, B. & MacKay, A. 2011.
Can Musical Training Even in Old Age Keep Your Brain Younger?
Check out the new Northwestern University study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging or see the January 30, 2012 news release by Wendy Leopold, "Music training has biological impact on aging process." Musical training even in old age can keep your brain younger longer because age-related delays in neural timing are not inevitable and can be avoided or offset with musical training. This finding is based on the first study to provide biological evidence that lifelong musical experience impacts the aging process.
Measuring automatic brain responses of younger and older musicians and non-musicians to speech sounds, researchers found older musicians not only outperformed older non-musicians, they also encoded sound stimuli as quickly and accurately as younger non-musicians. Also, the study found that age-related hearing loss is not set in stone.
Age-related delays in neural timing are not inevitable and can be avoided or offset with musical training, according to a new study from Northwestern University. The study is the first to provide biological evidence that lifelong musical experience has an impact on the aging process.
Measuring the automatic brain responses of younger and older musicians and non-musicians to speech sounds, researchers in the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory discovered that older musicians had a distinct neural timing advantage.
“The older musicians not only outperformed their older non-musician counterparts, they encoded the sound stimuli as quickly and accurately as the younger non-musicians,” said Northwestern neuroscientist Nina Kraus, according to the news release. “This reinforces the idea that how we actively experience sound over the course of our lives has a profound effect on how our nervous system functions.”
Kraus, professor of communication sciences in the School of Communication and professor of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is co-author of “Musical experience offsets age-related delays in neural timing” published online in the journal Neurobiology of Aging - Elsevier. Read the study online as a PDF file, Musical experience offsets age-related delays in neural timing.
Hearing loss in old age doesn't seem to matter as much because the brain can be trained to overcome some age-related hearing loss. There's also animal data from Michael Merzenich and his colleagues at University of California, San Francisco.
You can take music lessons late in life, even with some hearing loss. The new studies strongly suggest that intensive training even late in life could improve speech processing in older adults and, as a result, improve their ability to communicate in complex, noisy acoustic environments. Check out the sites, Michael Merzenich on Brain Training, Assessments, and Personal Brain Trainers, Michael Merzenich: Exploring the re-wiring of the brain, and UCSF researcher Michael Merzenich « CreativitytotheMAX.
Previous studies from Kraus’ Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory suggest that musical training also offset losses in memory and difficulties hearing speech in noise -- two common complaints of older adults. The lab has been extensively studying the effects of musical experience on brain plasticity across the life span in normal and clinical populations, and in educational settings.
The study showed that musical experience selectively influenced the timing of sound elements that are important in distinguishing one consonant from another. The study was not pervasive. And the study didn't show that musicians have a "neural timing advantage." Check out the site, Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory on music perception and learning-associated brain plasticity.
Most people are interested in how to keep cognitive vitality as all of us age. The point in plain language from these types of studies is that training effects endure. Can all of us benefit from booster or refresher training? If so, in what?
Music lessons perhaps on an easy to use keyboard? Or could we better benefit from ongoing training designed to improve other skills and abilities that limit our older lives? That's why research continues on topics related to neuroscience and what is most likely to give people in general a neural timing advantage.
Most music therapists in the health care arena know that when you bring musical instruments such as tambourines and drums into a group of Alzheimer's patients in a nursing home, for example, it helps them reminisce or enjoy the experience. Some people can sing lyrics but not speak in sentences when not singing. One goal is to develop better plasticity in learning and remembering as we age.
The University of California, Davis studies music and aging and meditation and aging. See the articles, Benefits of Meditation: Increased Telomerase, and music-evoked nostalgia, Introduction Study 1: Induction and Music-Evoked - UC Davis. Now a new study has been published on music and neurobiology--on how music training has a biological impact on how you age. Should older adults be exposed to music lessons to keep the brain younger longer?