Those first attempts at playing the violin or trombone might not do a parent's ears any favours, but according to new research, learning to play an instrument as a child can help keep their hearing sharp.
A US study carried out by researchers at the Northwestern University in Illinois found that those who had taken music lessons as a youngster had better hearing in later life. Even adults who had not picked up an instrument for almost 40 years seemed to have benefited.
Regardless of the instrument learned, the brain cells of former musicians responded much faster to sound than those that had never learned to play music. This quicker response means that people were better able to distinguish a conversation from background noise in a busy restaurant, or hear more clearly while on the phone.
Furthermore, the longer the participants had spent learning an instrument in their youth, the faster the neuron response, with those who had put in four years of practice hearing sounds a thousandth of a second faster than those who had never played music.
Brain scientist Michael Kilgard, from a Texas university, told the Daily Mail: "Being a millisecond faster may not seem like much but the brain is very sensitive to timing and a millisecond compounded over millions of neurons can make a real difference in the lives of older adults.
"These findings confirm that the investments we make in our brains early in life continue to pay dividends years later."
The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
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