For individuals who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” may have a whole new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial effect on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study carried out by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. Of those observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. knowing that the children with implants had a hard time 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 results showed a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
There is a tremendous amount of research showing the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this study is only one of them. In noisy environments, speech perception can be enhanced by musical training, and these findings were backed by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
That study examined the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, challenging each to identify speech syllables through a number of background noise levels.
Unlike the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. While participants weren’t necessarily hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst individuals who were musically trained and those who weren’t was considerable.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any level of background noise was incorporated, the musicians substantially outperformed the non-musicians. 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 the advantages of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t just end there. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, fine-tuning and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
These adult musicians in this study had all been educated when they were younger and had at least a decade of 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 challenge for some of the world’s most well-known composers and musicians. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that began to decline while he was in his late 20s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was most likely the conduit for prolonging his musical career. Through the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost entirely deaf. In spite of that, many of his most cherished works were composed during his last 15 years.