Many people suffer some kind of hearing loss, especially as they age. Hearing loss can make social situations very difficult and may lead to feelings of isolation and depression. While most hearing loss is irreversible, some exercises may make it easier for the brain to follow conversation particularly in crowded rooms.

The brain is involved in the hearing process. The brain “hears” all sound, and then has to choose what is important to pay attention to. As people age, the brain may have more difficulty processing the sound it hears and assigning meaning and importance to it.

Hearing aids help but only to a certain extent. Hearing aids make all sounds louder but can’t help the brain distinguish between the conversation going on at your table versus the background noises in the restaurant. A person must train his or her brain to distinguish better.

Musicians are trained to distinguish between different instruments, similar to how a brain must distinguish between important conversation and background noise. To strengthen that ability in the brain, it’s possible to train with music.

For at least 30 minutes a day, listen to classical music (no words). Pick one group of instruments (for example, strings or drums) and follow that one instrument or group of instruments throughout the entire song, ignoring the others. Start small with trios then increase the number of instruments in the song, working your way up to full symphony orchestras.

Remember to actively work and listen for the instrument or group of instruments that you set out to follow. Simply listening to the music as a whole is less likely to help you to build the ability to pick out sounds from a group.

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