Science: Physical deterioration of the ear is not the only factor in age-related hearing loss, according to a recent study by Nina Kraus of Northwestern University and colleagues. As one ages, the brain slows down, which results in increased difficulty in processing certain sounds, particularly similar-sounding consonants, such as “b” and “d,” at the beginning of words. Background noise adds to the problem. In their study of 67 people aged 55–70 years with no hearing loss, the researchers found that auditory training exercises can improve brain activity and, hence, the ability to understand speech, even in noisy environments. “This study is tremendously important given the aging of the population and our need to identify novel and effective interventions to reduce age-related cognitive and functional declines in older adults,” said Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University.