Our surrounding auditory environment has a dramatic influence on the development of basic auditory and cognitive skills, but little is known about how it influences the recovery of these skills after neural damage. Here, we studied the long-term effects of daily music and speech listening on auditory sensory memory after middle cerebral artery (MCA) stroke. In the acute recovery phase, 60 patients who had middle cerebral artery stroke were randomly assigned to a music listening group, an audio book listening group, or a control group. Auditory sensory memory, as indexed by the magnetic MMN (MMNm) response to changes in sound frequency and duration, was measured 1 week (baseline), 3 months, and 6 months after the stroke with whole-head magnetoencephalography recordings. Fifty-four patients completed the study. Results showed that the amplitude of the frequency MMNm increased significantly more in both music and audio book groups than in the control group during the 6-month poststroke period. In contrast, the duration MMNm amplitude increased more in the audio book group than in the other groups. Moreover, changes in the frequency MMNm amplitude correlated significantly with the behavioral improvement of verbal memory and focused attention induced by music listening. These findings demonstrate that merely listening to music and speech after neural damage can induce long-term plastic changes in early sensory processing, which, in turn, may facilitate the recovery of higher cognitive functions. The neural mechanisms potentially underlying this effect are discussed.

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