The expression “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning for people suffering from hearing loss.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial impact on hearing as is illustrated by a joint study carried out by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers observed, putting 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. knowing that the children with implants had difficulty understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers developed control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The study showed an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This research is just the latest in a long line of research endeavors that show the merits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these results and suggested that musical training can enhance speech perception in loud environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the objective of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
The ages of the participants in the study by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
When the noise was missing, both groups had similar results, but when any amount of background noise was added, the musicians significantly outperformed the non-musicians. It’s likely that the ability to perform well on these tests was due to enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory parts found inside of the brains of the musicians.
But the benefits of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s study don’t just end there. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training reinforced the participant’s auditory-motor network, fine-tuning and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
It’s important to note that while the musicians observed were adults, each of them started their musical training at a much younger age and amassed at least ten years of musical training. This again supports the recent assessment that musical training can have a profound impact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most celebrated composers and musicians. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that started to decline while he was in his late 20s.
Although Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be considered extreme by current standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the conduit to extending his career as a composer. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life almost completely deaf. Despite that, many of his most beloved pieces were composed over his last 15 years.