The expression “Music to my ears” could soon have a very different meaning for people suffering from hearing impairment.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London assessed the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the results of the study illustrated the effect and benefit received by exposing people to music.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. Armed with the knowledge that the children with implants had difficulty understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers introduced control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The results showed a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This research is only the latest in a long line of research endeavors that show the benefits of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. In noisy settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were corroborated by a study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which examined 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst individuals who were musically trained and those who weren’t was considerable.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would separate themselves as the study continued, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise ratios. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory areas of the brain which most likely accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. The auditory motor network is fine-tuned and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this study.
It’s worthwhile to note that while the musicians examined were adults, they all started their musical training at a much younger age and amassed at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful effect and this once again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most renowned composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who began to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was probably the conduit for prolonging his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually lived the last decade of his life almost completely deaf. Incredibly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned works.