Musical training enhances neural processing of binaural sounds

Alexandra Parbery-Clark, Dana L. Strait, Emily Hittner, Nina Kraus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


While hearing in noise is a complex task, even in high levels of noise humans demonstrate remarkable hearing ability. Binaural hearing, which involves the integration and analysis of incoming sounds from both ears, is an important mechanism that promotes hearing in complex listening environments. Analyzing inter-ear differences helps differentiate between sound sources-a key mechanism that facilitates hearing in noise. Even when both ears receive the same input, known as diotic hearing, speech intelligibility in noise is improved. Although musicians have better speech-in-noise perception compared with non-musicians, we do not know to what extent binaural processing contributes to this advantage. Musicians often demonstrate enhanced neural responses to sound, however, which may undergird their speech-in-noise perceptual enhancements. Here, we recorded auditory brainstem responses in young adult musicians and non-musicians to a speech stimulus for which there was no musician advantage when presented monaurally. When presented diotically, musicians demonstrated faster neural timing and greater intertrial response consistency relative to non-musicians. Furthermore, musicians' enhancements to the diotically presented stimulus correlated with speech-in-noise perception. These data provide evidence for musical training's impact on biological processes and suggest binaural processing as a possible contributor to more proficient hearing in noise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16741-16747
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number42
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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