Science Fair Project:

Do Musicians Develop Better Hearing?

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Research Question:

  • Are people who are musically trained and/or practiced better than non-musicians at distinguishing and understanding speech in noisy environments?

A recent study published in the journal Ear and Hearing found that people who are trained and practiced musicians are better able to distinguish the words of a conversation in the midst of a noisy room. If this idea can be generalized, it will have important practical implications for people who are hard of hearing and children with learning disabilities. Test out the hypothesis for yourself.

Materials:

  • An audio recorder and player
  • A noisy environment
  • 2 volunteers to record a conversation
  • 20 or more musician test subjects
  • 20 or more non-musician test subjects
  • Paper and pencil for recording and analyzing results

Experimental Procedure

  1. With your recording equipment go to the noisy environment and record your two volunteers having a conversation amidst the noise. The recorded conversation should be very difficult but not impossible to hear.
  2. Note the length and type of musical experience your musician test subjects have.
  3. Have test subjects listen to the recording, picking out and writing down as much of it as they can hear.
  4. Compare the results of this hearing test for your musician and non-musician test subjects. Did the musicians do better on the test?
  5. Analyze results more carefully. Did any patterns emerge relating length or type of musical training or practice to how well test subjects did?

Terms/Concepts: Musicians have better hearing.

References: "Making Music Hacks Your Hearing," by Hadley Leggett, Wired Science

Author: Shelly Smith
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