• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Doctors find new way to prevent hearing loss

May 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Losing our hearing is part of the aging process, but doctors have found a surprising way to stave off hearing loss.

The famous classical composer Beethoven, even though he was going deaf, could still write and play music. So is hearing a big part of music, or can music help you hear?

We asked America's rock royalty, the legendary band KISS. Lead singer and guitarist Paul Stanley had a flair for music early in life. He attended the High School of Performing Arts in New York City and went on to write many of KISS' chart topping hits. But what you may not know is that he was born deaf in one ear.

"Mine is called a microtia," said Stanley. "I didn't have an ear canal, so there was no way for sound to get into the inner ear."

Yet Stanley said he could feel the music, and even visualize it.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I would listen to music and innately understood what it was about and what made it," said Stanley. "What it was and how notes were working with each other."

A new study out of Northwestern University found Stanley may have been born with a musical brain.

"His brain, probably at birth, was predisposed to music production, music appreciation, and really superior sound association abilities," said Rick Friedman, M.D. from the House Ear Institute.

Friedman said researchers have discovered that musical people have heightened memory capabilities, and their brains are uniquely wired to fill in the blanks or connect the dots even when their ears don't work as well.

"Their auditory centers may be in some ways more well developed," said Friedman. "And they'll be able to deal with hearing and noise better as they get older."

So can non-musical people train their brain? Researchers said musical training can reduce the impact of age related hearing loss. But experts said any intellectual pursuit you take up can help.

"Take up something completely different from where they've been on their life paths," said Friedman. "There's a lesser incidence of cognitive loss, memory loss, dementia."

"Once you realize that your hearings gone, it's way too late," said Stanley.

And you might be surprised to learn that even as a teen, Stanley said that he used to wear earplugs to protect his good ear when he was at concerts.

The House Research Institute Sound Rules is an afterschool teenage education program to help kids learn how to preserve their hearing.

Load Comments