Catalyst Awardee

Project Description

Musical training for older adults with hearing loss: Maximising the benefits of hearing aids to improve brain functioning, auditory abilities and social participation


Adrian Fuente, PhD |Universidad de Chile; Lilian Toledo, MSc; Macarena Bowen, MSc
Competition Sponsor: Chile Agencia Nacional de Investigacion y Desarrollo
Awardee Year: 2022

Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in older adults. ARHL is associated with poorer social participation and quality of life in older adults. In addition, because of reduced audibility over time, ARHL leads to brain changes in areas associated with the processing of auditory information, leading to difficulties processing sounds and thus misunderstanding what people say. ARHL is currently treated with hearing aids; however, around 30% to 50% of older adults fitted with hearing aids stop wearing them as they do not get benefits from them. This is because hearing aids improve audibility (poor sound detection associated with hearing loss), but ARHL is also associated with reduced processing of acoustic features that are important to understand speech. In this project we propose a novel approach to auditory rehabilitation for older adults with ARHL which combines the use of hearing aids and musical training. The rationale of this approach is to offer both improved access to sounds (i.e. hearing aids) and improved processing of the acoustic features of sounds (i.e. musical training). Musical training improves the neural encoding (i.e. processing) of auditory stimuli, inducing neuroplasticity. Thus, we hypothesise that musical training will have a positive impact on the benefits older adults can obtain from hearing aids. In order to test the idea proposed in this project, we will first develop a musical training programme. Then we will recruit 40 older adults aged between 60 and 75 years to test our hypothesis.

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