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GRAMMY Foundation Awards U of M Grant for Hearing Study

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.”

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Last Updated: 4/15/15