Can music really slow down the ageing process?

An interesting new study has revealed that music can help slow down the ageing process.

Researchers in the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in the US, measured the automatic brain responses of younger and older musicians and nonmusicians to speech sounds. They discovered that older musicians had a distinct neural timing advantage and concluded that age-related delays in neural timing are not inevitable and can be avoided or delayed with musical training.

Neuroscientist Nina Kraus commented “The older musicians not only outperformed their older nonmusician counterparts, but they encoded the sound stimuli as quickly and accurately as the younger nonmusicians”. “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.”

The data suggests that intensive training, even late in life, could improve speech processing in older adults and improve their ability to communicate in complex, noisy acoustic environments. Don Caspary, a researcher on age-related hearing loss at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine says “They support the idea that the brain can be trained to overcome, in part, some age-related hearing loss”.

Previous studies from Kraus’ Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory suggest that musical training also offsets 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.

What great news. Music can have so many positive influences on our general well being and I am going to examine a few of the most common ways that it can heal us both physically and mentally in future blog posts. It really can have a huge impact on our lives. You don’t always have to play an instrument either, often listening or meditating to music can be very beneficial too.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. We have several senior citizens taking lessons at DSM for this very reason – they are keeping their brains active and are having a great time doing it. There’s no doubt about the power of music – it’s a shame that the profession of music education has failed to think outside the El-Hi box. With all of the great data being reported, you’d think we would be training music teachers to reach this growing population of enthusiasts (who have disposable income by the way) rather than training them to conduct junior high choirs and orchestras that are dwindling before our very ears and eyes. Perhaps we wouldn’t have to ‘save the music’ if we took it upon ourselves to be more entrepreneurial in our passion to teach.

    1. Thank you Eugene – that’s all so true. It’s amazing just how much music can change people’s lives for the better. One day the powers that be will maybe wake up to this fact.

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