The Official SoundScape Weblog

The Official SoundScape Weblog

Ears to Hear

The Benefits of Music Therapy for Dementia Care

     In previous posts I’ve talked about the negative effects of hearing loss, one being the link between hearing loss and dementia. In this post I’d like to highlight one means of treating dementia and Alzheimer’s, which is music therapy. I recently read an article, Music as Therapy: A 5-Note Plan for Caregiver Calm,  which does a great job of explaining the benefits in a clear and concise manner. Here is an excerpt:


     "Since music is associated with one of the five senses — hearing —which is controlled by the brain, it makes sense we should exercise our brains with music listening to spur cognitive function in the same way we use physical therapy to exercise our limbs, muscles and joints to regain mobility and physical function."


     "Studies have shown that music reduces agitation or improves behavioral issues such as violent outbursts in dementia patients.  In one pilot program, 45 patients with middle- to late-stage dementia had one hour of personalized music therapy three times a week for 10 months, and improved their scores on a cognitive-function test by 50 percent on average."


In relation to hearing loss, the benefits of music therapy cannot fully be realized if a person cannot hear. If a person has a hearing loss their brain cannot get the same cognitive stimulus (exercise) it once did. As a result cognitive function can be lost. So if a person has hearing loss the first thing they need to do is address that hearing loss if they want their brain to function as well as possible.


     One thing I’d like to highlight from this article is the first suggestion it gives for using music as therapy; something that anyone can do.


"Discover the “happy times tunes”: Talk to your loved one about happy times in their life and understand the music associations with that time are essential to their sense of happiness.  Whether it is big band, gospel, rock ‘n’ roll, country, opera or blues, find out what tunes make your parent or spouse smile.  Most older loved ones, especially Alzheimer’s patients who retain long-term memory as opposed to short-term memory, find tunes from their youth the most joyful."


     I’d also like to highlight an organization in Southern Oregon that performs Music Therapy. I serve on the board of a non-profit called Heart and Hope Music, which is “a charitable, non-profit which provides a therapeutic, life-enriching musical program of Love, Hope, Comfort and Humor for Elders and Those With Special Needs.” I got involved with this organization for a couple of reasons. First, Donny Roze, who is the music therapist, knows an immense amount of songs, especially old folk and pop songs so he is able to play the “happy times tunes” that are important to elders. He is also very engaging and humorous. However what he does is not simply entertainment, Donny does an incredible job of involving people in the music. It’s not a show; his therapy sessions are very participatory and draw people out physically and mentally, which is important for getting the maximum benefit from music therapy.


     I would encourage everyone to help support the work of music therapists like Donny Roze in whatever way possible. Find out more at

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