Contact: Gabrielle Maxey
April 29, 2014 – The GRAMMY Foundation has awarded a $20,000 grant to the University
of Memphis for a project to explore the benefits of musical training in strengthening
the ear and preventing noise-induced hearing loss.
The two-year study is a collaboration between the Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience
Lab, directed by Dr. Gavin Bidelman, and the Hearing Science Lab, directed by Dr.
Shaum Bhagat. About 40 young adults, both with and without musical training, will
be recruited for the study.
Researchers will measure tiny sounds produced in the cochlea – called otoacoustic
emissions, or OAEs – to assess hearing health and noise-related damage to the inner
ear. They will compare musician and non-musician listeners to evaluate whether long-term
musical training can change the ear’s susceptibility to acoustic damage.
Alternatively, the study may show that excessive exposure to instrumental music over
an extended time can impair hearing. Identifying that musicians are at a higher risk
for hearing loss could lead to important hearing protection and educational programs
tailored to professional musicians.
The participants will not be required to listen to music or be engaged with sound;
OAEs can be recorded while a person is asleep and still provide a diagnostic measure
of hearing function.
“This is an exciting project and we are thrilled to have support from the GRAMMY Foundation
for our research,” said Bidelman. “We hope to add to the growing list of documented
benefits showing an impact of long-term musical training on health and the human condition.
This will be the first systematic study of how musicianship might strengthen the ear
and provide some resilience to noise-related hearing loss.”