Have you ever thought about joining a choir? Singing in a choir is fun and fosters a sense of community; but it can also do a lot more than that. Choral singers are happier, more balanced and have more efficient mental functioning1 - as a result of singing. Singing can also improve hearing in old age.
The older we get, the more difficult it becomes to follow conversations in noisy places with lots of people. What were once pleasant, entertaining evenings in a bar or restaurant soon become a challenge. Our hearing ability slowly starts to deteriorate as early as between 30 and 40 years of age.
Why is that? The way we perceive sounds increasingly changes as we age due to the diminishing efficiency of our hearing and a reduced transmission of information to our brain via nerve pathways. Therefore, more and more misunderstandings creep in the older weget. This can be compared to the a children’s game also called “telephone” in which a person whispers a short sentence into the ear of their neighbor and a completely different sentence is revealed at the end.2
How music gets our brain back on its feet
Scientists have discovered that music – particularly actively playing an instrument or singing – hugely stimulates our nervous system and allows nerve cells to reconnect and different regions of the brain to connect more effectively.3 Thus, musicians can concentrate better, learn foreign languages more easily, and have a better verbal memory.4 They are also less dependent on hearing aids in old age and have fewer problems understanding speech in loud environments.5 Scientists now want to use this knowledge to specifically train the brain performance of people with age-related hearing loss and improve their hearing ability.
Singing for improved hearing
A large research project by Ryerson University involving people over 50 with mild hearing loss revealed that singing in a choir does not just trigger happiness, but also can also improve hearing. This also applies to people who have not had long music careers. A ten-week music program involving regular choir rehearsals and additional online training improved the brain's efficiency to such an extent that a significant increase in speech comprehension, ability to distinguish between different sounds, attentiveness and neuronal stimulus processing.2
Singing also has a positive effect on dementia6 demonstrating life changing effects.7 Scientists hope these findings will increase the quality of life of older persons. Incorporating singing into your hearing health care may be an easy way to improve your mood, your mental processing, and your hearing. So don't be shy and sing to your heart's content! Luckily, the effect on our health and hearing does not depend on whether or not we actually hit the notes.