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Can banging on a drum SAVE your hearing? Playing any musical instrument can help

Research suggests learning to play any instrument, even the drums, helps
Can improve hearing in noisy environments like parties and restaurants
Those who played an instrument were better at detecting sounds
By CARA LEE FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 18:51 EST, 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 04:59 EST, 13 January 2015

Piano lessons might not seem like the best idea if you’re hard of hearing. But research suggests that learning to play any musical instrument, even the drums, can help with fighting hearing loss.
In particular, it can improve hearing in noisy environments, such as parties and restaurants – one of the big bugbears for people with a hearing impairment or age-related hearing loss.
People with hearing loss often end up avoiding these situations out of frustration, causing isolation and depression, says Nina Kraus, a professor of neurobiology, physiology and otolaryngology at Northwestern University in the U.S. and a leading expert in this field of research.
In 2013, she ran a study with 18 musicians and 19 non-musicians, aged 45 to 65, all with hearing loss. She tested their hearing in noisy environments by monitoring electrical activity from nerves in the brain in response to sounds, using electrodes on the scalp.
Research suggests learning to play any instrument, even the drums, helps hearing
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Research suggests learning to play any instrument, even the drums, helps hearing
The study, published in the journal Hearing Research, found those who played an instrument were better at detecting sounds against noisy backgrounds, processing the sound and remembering what they’d heard.
‘The nerves in the brains of musicians responded more clearly and precisely than non-musicians’,’ says Professor Kraus. By learning an instrument, she says, a person can develop auditory skills that improve ability to hear sound and speech.
‘The enhancements we see in musically-trained individuals are not just a “volume knob” effect,’ she adds.

‘Part of what you’re doing as a musician is listening for meaning, harmonies and the sound of your instrument. Musicians outperform non-musicians in remembering what they’ve heard, and this skill is needed to hear in noisy environments.’
While this research focused on those who’d played since childhood, Professor Kraus believes hearing would also improve if adults start learning.
Children who are deaf or have hearing problems may also benefit from learning instruments. Vicki Kirwin, an audiology specialist at the National Deaf Children’s Society, says: ‘There’s a myth that deaf people can’t hear music, therefore no one tries to get them involved.’
She says children with hearing difficulties often want to play instruments, but teachers presume they won’t be able to do it.
‘Learning music is good for communication, language from learning lyrics, emotional development and interaction.’ What’s important is that an instrument is chosen with a pitch the child can hear.
Matthew English, nine, is proof this can work. He was born with unilateral microtia atresia, which meant his left ear hadn’t developed (he has a stump where his outer ear would be, and doesn’t have an ear canal), and has relied on hearing aids since he was four.
Parties and restaurants can be one of the big bugbears for people with a hearing impairment
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Parties and restaurants can be one of the big bugbears for people with a hearing impairment
Being deaf in one ear made Matthew’s early years hard. He had difficulties concentrating, balance problems and poor self-esteem. Then, in April 2013, he started playing the violin – and everything changed.
‘His self-belief rocketed because now he knows he can achieve things,’ says his mother Janice, 49, from Orpington, Kent.
Matthew is taught in a quiet room, and his teacher maintains eye contact, so he can lip-read her instructions.
They work in front of a mirror, so Matthew can see her hold the instrument and she shows him how to feel vibrations in his left cheek and detect the notes.
Matthew fundraises for the charity Hearing Fund UK, established by Olive Osmond, the mother of the famous singing clan. Two of her children were born with hearing loss In September 2013, Matthew was invited to play at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, with Olive’s deaf grandson Justin Osmond.
‘I was emotional seeing him on stage,’ says Janice. ‘When he plays violin, he says he forgets he’s different.’
The National Deaf Children’s Society has a resource helping to include deaf children in musical activities.