Have you ever been in a very noisy place, maybe at a restaurant for a dinner with 10 people and there are multiple conversations going on, not just at your table but at all the tables around you. I was at such an event the other day with people between the ages of 25 and 80. The restaurant started getting noisier and noisier and I started to see people squinting when they listened which made me wonder about why we strain our eyes in order to focus our hearing. One person who is deaf in his right ear deliberately changed seats to be able to hear the conversation, and sadly one of the older people sunk further and further back into her seat as it just became too hard for her to distinguish the speech from all the other sounds.
This action by the older person is not just finding one conversation too hard to hear, it has a knock-on effect of disconnecting that person from their family and their community. Imagine the feeling of your brain going into cognitive overload because it is too hard to distinguish speech around the table with all the other noise in the background. It has a fundamental impact on wellbeing, sense of connection and even important information.
This paper looked at the research that has found that musicians have better speech in noise perception and asked if short term music training might be beneficial for older adults, even if they didn’t have music training in their background. A little by accident they found that it did. Instrumental lesson and singing groups for older adults are thriving all over the world, primarily for social connection, but could this research mean that along with social connection, music training is maintaining the health of their brain in such a way that they can remain engaged in the every day conversations they have in noisy environments?
We think so! Bring on the ukulele ensembles, choirs and beginner violin classes for the over 80s!