Musicians and Listening-in-Noise
Anderson and Kraus (2011) note that the ability to hear in noise cannot be predicted based solely on the audiometric configuration. Indeed, one must consider central and cognitive factors with regard to speech-in-noise ability.
Anderson and Kraus report that musical experience transfers and enhances multiple auditory abilities through cortical, cerebellar, and other pathways; and musicians often demonstrate superior “auditory-based” cognitive ability with regard to auditory working memory and/or attention. The authors note that musical training extends “all the way to the cochlea, with stronger top-down activity demonstrated by greater olivo-cochlear efferent suppression of biomechanical activity in musicians….” Of note, these advantages do not transfer to the visual system.
Musicians are particularly good at extracting sounds of interest from various soundscapes and the extent of training does influence the specific musicians’ speech-in-noise ability. Based on brainstem responses acquired in the presence of speech babble, Anderson and Kraus report that musicians tend to experience less distraction from background noise than do non-musicians.
Authors Anderson and Kraus conclude that musical training and expertise may represent an effective training strategy with regard to listening better in background noise.
For More Information, References, and Recommendations
Anderson S, Kraus N. (2011) Neural Encoding of Speech and Music—Implications for Hearing Speech in Noise. Seminars in Hearing 32(2):129-139.