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If you play an instrument, this should be music to your ears: According to a new study in Psychology and Aging, lifelong musicians experience fewer age-related hearing problems than non-musicians.
Canadian researchers monitored a group of musicians (those with at least 6 years of formal music lessons who started training before age 16) and a group of non-musicians between the ages of 18-91 and tested their hearing in a series of auditory tasks. Although both groups had the same results when it came to detecting sounds that grew quieter, musicians had a clear advantage at detecting silent gaps during continuous sound and noticing the differences between sound frequencies.
It’s yet another example of what playing music can do for your body and mind. “The brain automatically responds to the sounds in our life,” says Alex Doman, founder and CEO of Advanced Brain Technologies in Ogden, Utah, and the author of Healing at the Speed of Sound. “[Music] is an intrinsic factor to who we are.”
Here are 3 more ways that being a musician has a major impact on your health.
1. It Slashes Away Stress
According to a study in Medical Science Monitor, playing an instrument can help reverse the effects of stress on the brain. Researchers made participants work on a frustrating puzzle for an hour to boost their stress, and assigned them to one of three groups to work on another task. After a blood sample analysis, the group that participated in a recreational keyboard program for its follow-up task showed the lowest levels of stress among the groups—which explains why Elton John always has a giant grin on his face when he’s playing the piano.
2. It Helps Your Heart
Playing a musical instrument may also be beneficial for your heart, according to a 2005 study in the journal Heart. As participants listened to several songs in a variety of musical styles, researchers measured their breathing patterns and blood pressure, among other respiratory markers. Half of the participants were trained musicians, while the other half had no musical experience. During the tests, the participants’ breathing and circulation matched up with the music (i.e., the faster the song, the higher the circulation). But results showed that musicians were better at controlling their breathing when tempos suddenly changed, which is likely due to their ability to synchronize breathing with musical phrases.
3. It Boosts Your Brainpower
A study from Stanford University found that having music training can improve how your brain processes the spoken word. Researchers measured the brain activity of 40 adults (split evenly between musicians and non-musicians) and found that the musicians had more focused, efficient brain activity. That’s because music training enhances the brains’ ability to decipher between rapidly changing sounds (which is key to understanding language), according to the researchers.