The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have an entirely different meaning for people who have hearing loss.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London evaluated the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study highlighted the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the main measure researchers looked at, putting 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. Armed with the knowledge 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.
For kids in the singing group, an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is just the latest in a long line of research endeavors that illustrate the advantages of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud environments, speech perception can be enhanced by musical training, and these results were corroborated by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the objective of this study which used 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
In contrast to the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at young adults whose ages averaged around 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
The two groups performed similarly under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would separate themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory areas of the brain which probably accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. According to the study’s findings, 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 worthwhile to note that while the musicians observed were adults, each of them began their musical education at a much younger age and amassed at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful effect and this again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Battle With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most famous composers and musicians. Probably the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that started to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was likely the conduit for extending his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life almost totally deaf. In spite of that, many of his most treasured pieces were composed over his last 15 years.