Most adults experience some degree of hearing loss by age 60. Hearing aids can improve some aspects of peripheral hearing but the loss of the ability to clearly perceive speech in noisy environments remains to be a significant deficit and often reduces life quality in older adults. Long-term music training has been shown to enhance auditory processing and specifically benefit speech-in-noise perception. It is not clear however whether short-term participation in a musically engaged activity can benefit such abilities in older adults. The proposed study aims to investigate whether short-term participation in a weekly community choir can improve speech in noise perception and its neural substrates as measured by sensory auditory evoked potentials (ERPs) to speech stimuli in older adults with mild to moderate subjective hearing loss. Sixty participants, ages 50-65, will be recruited to partake in this study and will be randomly assigned to two groups: participants in the experimental group will join a weekly choir, for fifteen weeks, directed by a professionally trained conductor from USC Department of Choral Music. The group practice will be accompanied by individual singing lessons (online or CDs) for home practice.

Participants in the control group will be provided with weekly playlists to passively listen to. The playlists will be curated by a music therapist to reflect the music that older participants can connect to and would enjoy listening to. All participants will be assessed pre and post intervention, with behavioral and electrophysiological measures of speech in noise perception and probes assessing emotional well-being and life satisfaction. Changes in auditory measures and their neural correlates and overall quality of life will be compared between the groups. The findings from this study can provide preliminary data to support a larger study on the impact of music engagement in improving the lives of older adults.

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