Musician’s Brains are More Organised

I read an article today about a study of brain activity while listening: Brain ‘closes eyes’ to hear music. They state that musician’s “years of training had provided [them with] a distinct advantage in the way their brains were organised.” At best it’s mildly interesting, but it confirms some suspicions I had about hearing.

Afflicted with a small, constant ringing in my ears (a delightful “Tinnitus Lite” which I attribute to standing so close to a crash ride on stage for so many years), I had asked my doctor for a hearing test. They mainly tested my hearing in a soundproof room using pure tones at varying volumes and pitches. Afterwards the audiologist told me I had the hearing of a 10-year-old, with a couple dips at 1.5KHz in one ear and 4KHz in the other. Also she was able to isolate some of the frequencies of my tinnitus – described usually as a complex combination of notes. I found these results surprising, considering my line of work, but later I realised that the method of testing resulted in a biased outcome for musicians.

During the test I was finding that at some of the lower volumes, I would close my eyes and listen hard. Being in the studio or on stage we are conditioned to listen attentively, to distinguish between different sounds; so I could better hear my voice or keyboards in the mess of other extremely lound goings on. So testing my hearing using tones is a bit of a joke; of course I could hear things other people don’t usually listen for.

So this article today confirms my suspicions, that I probably have suffered some hearing loss, but that music has forced me to become a more careful, compensatory listener.