Dr. Benjamin Zendel
Canada Research Chair in Aging and Auditory Neuroscience
Research involves: Examining the impact of aging and training on hearing and the associated neurophysiological responses
Research relevance: This research will serve as a foundation to develop auditory rehabilitation programs that can improve hearing abilities in older adults.
No need to say it again: improving hearing in older adults
Hearing difficulties are one of the most commonly reported health issues in older adults and are related to depression, anxiety and even cognitive decline. In noisy environments, like a restaurant, a party or walking down a busy street, the brain has the difficult task of isolating and understanding speech in the presence of background noise. As we age, understanding speech in noisy environments becomes increasingly difficult.
The goal of Dr. Benjamin Zendel’s research program is to improve hearing abilities in older adults. He is investigating the impact of age on how the brain processes both speech and music. Past work by Dr. Zendel demonstrated that older, lifelong musicians are better at understanding speech in background noise compared to non-musicians. In fact, the average 70-year-old musician can understand speech in a noisy environment as well as the average 50 year old non-musician. To translate this finding into something that can benefit all Canadians, he is examining if there is a causal link between music training and enhanced hearing in older adults.
To focus the clinical utility of musical training, Dr. Zendel is using electroencephalography (EEG) to identify neural functions related to processing speech and music in older adults. He is also isolating what components of musical training lead to neural enhancements in the processing of speech and music. With this knowledge Dr. Zendel will provide an evidence-based foundation to develop auditory rehabilitation programs that can be used by older adults to improve their hearing and to promote healthy aging.