Researchers at Northwestern University have revealed that music training may in fact help you listen in noisy environments.
Thirty-one study participants, with normal hearing and a mean age of 23, were divided into one group with music experience and another without it. They had to listen to sentences presented in increasingly noisy conditions and repeat back what they heard.
The study shows that musicians — trained to hear sounds embedded in a rich network of melodies and harmonies — are primed to understand speech in a noisy background, say in a restaurant, classroom or plane.
It is the first demonstration of musical training offsetting the deleterious effects of background noise, and the implications are provocative.
The study points to a highly pragmatic side of music’s magic,” said Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology and director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, where the research was done.
Better perception in noise was linked with better working memory and tone discrimination ability. The results imply that musical training enhances the ability to hear speech in challenging listening environments by strengthening auditory memory and the representation of important acoustic features.
By reinforcing the pervasive effects that musical experience has on sound-processing abilities, Nina Kraus stressed, this study underscores the importance of music education being more accessible to the general population.
The Listening Program® (TLP) is a method of music listening therapy developed by my company Advanced Brain Technologies. TLP includes classical music specially arranged, recorded, and modified with acoustic features that help the listener in part, extract specific sounds from other sounds within music just as the musician does when practicing or performing.
By listening to this music with certain natural attributes psychoacoustically-modified including the mechanisms of tone, intensity, time, and space we find that listeners refine discrimination skills that generalize into practical life experiences such as listening in a classroom, restaurant, and in the work place.
This study provides further support to the theory behind our approach to listening training. Further, someone may not need to be a musician to experience such benefits but can turn to a method such as The Listening Program for the purpose of improved listening in the presence of background noise, a result frequently reported to us by providers using this approach with children over the course of the last ten years.
 Northwestern University (2009, August 27). Taking Up Music So You Can Hear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090817142857.htm