Age-related hearing loss, it doesn’t sound very good. However, it is something that almost every person as they age will begin to experience. With hearing loss comes not only the lowering of our ability to hear the nuances in sound and some specific sounds altogether, but it can also lead to a withdrawal from conversations in crowded, noisy spaces and even create a feeling of isolation.
What’s the answer? Join a choir! But why?
Joining a choir has the potential to remedy a feeling of isolation, but how can it change your hearing? The answer is that sound going into our ears is just that, sound. It has no meaning yet. To gain meaning, it needs to go through the auditory processing network. This is a very important network in the brain that analyses the sound, makes sense of it, relates it to other things we have heard and helps us hear the very subtle differences between sounds. It thrives on sound information, but when there is less sound information coming through due to hearing loss, it can get lazy and stop working effectively.
This is where music learning comes in. Music learning, whether in a choir or on an instrument, is like a training program for our auditory processing network. It gives it a very good workout every time we sing or play and just like our bodily muscles, a workout strengthens connections, and muscles that may have lost their strength and flexibility. If you are singing in a choir, you are listening out for the note’s pitch, to the voices around you so you can blend with them and to the tiny changes in tempo and rhythm. Your auditory processing network is doing gymnastics, and this is what helps your hearing. It is not so much what your ear hears but what your brain does with it.
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And just on the side, the social and emotional benefits of singing in a group is incredible for your wellbeing, immune and brain health.
So get yourself singing with others!