Effects of short-term choir participation on auditory perception in older adults.
Hearing loss, which most adults will experience to some degree as they age, has been associated with decreased emotional wellbeing and reduced quality of life in aging adults. Although assistive technologies (e.g., hearing aids) can target aspects of peripheral hearing loss, persistent perceptual deficits are widely reported. One prevalent example is the loss of the ability to perceive speech in a noisy environment, which severely impacts quality of life and goes relatively unremediated by hearing aids. Musicianship has been shown to improve aspects of auditory processing, but has not been studied as a short-term intervention for improving these abilities in older adults. The current study investigates whether short-term choir participation can improve three aspects of auditory processing: perception of speech in noise, pitch discrimination, and the neural response to brief auditory stimuli (frequency following response; FFR). Forty-six older adults (aged 50+) participated in a choir for 10 weeks, during which they took part in group singing (2 hours/week) supported by individual online musical training (1 hour/week). Choir participants (n=46) underwent pre- and post-training assessments, conducted during the first week of the choir and again after the last week. Two control groups were assessed, including a group of older adults (aged 50+) involved in 10 weeks of music appreciation classes (music perception group; n=17), and an age- and audiometry-matched do-nothing control group (aged 50+; n=25). Control participants underwent the same battery of assessments, measured twice over the same time frame as the choir participants. Auditory assessments were administered electronically, and the FFR was obtained using electroencephalography (EEG). Preliminary statistical analyses showed that choir participants improved across all auditory measures, while both control groups showed no differences. These findings support our hypothesis that short-term choir participation is an effective intervention for neural and perceptual aspects of age-related hearing loss.
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