For individuals who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” could have a whole new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile 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 observed 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 other 22 had normal hearing ability. knowing that the children with implants had a hard time understanding speech perception before the beginning of the study, researchers created control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
For children in the singing group, an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed compared to children in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This research is just the most recent in a long line of research efforts that show the advantages of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were corroborated by a study conducted 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 variety of background noise levels.
In contrast to the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. 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 within the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. According to the study’s findings, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, refining 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 ten years of training. This once again backs the recent analysis that musical training can have a profound impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most celebrated musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Probably the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that started to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
Though Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be regarded as extreme by present standards, the foundation of the training may have been the conduit to prolonging his career as a composer. During the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly totally deaf. Incredibly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most popular works.