Those piano lessons you had as a kid can pay off later in life. Researchers have found the strongest evidence yet that musical training in youth can help prevent declines in the ability to comprehend speech.
Older adults who had childhood musical training were 20 percent faster in identifying speech sounds than peers who were not trained. Speech comprehension can diminish with age, even when hearing abilities remain intact. But starting formal instruction on a musical instrument prior to age 14 and continuing for up to a decade appears to bolster areas of the brain that support speech recognition. The new study showed that the benefit is maintained as we age.
“Old musicians’ brains provide a much more detailed, clean, and accurate depiction of the speech signal,” compared to non-musicians, said lead researcher Gavin Bidelman, PhD.