The saying “Music to my ears” may soon have an entirely different meaning to people who have hearing loss.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile impact on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study conducted 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 other 21 had cochlear implants. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a hard time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
For children in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This study is just the latest in a long line of research endeavors that demonstrate the benefits of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these findings and suggested that musical training can enhance speech perception in loud environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the goal of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, in contrast to the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a considerable difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed equally 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 ratios. It’s likely that the ability to perform well on these tests was a result of enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory parts located inside of the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. The auditory motor network is refined and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this study.
It’s significant to note that while the musicians examined were adults, they all started their musical training at a much younger age and accumulated at least a decade of musical training. This once again supports the recent assessment that musical training can have a powerful impact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a challenge for some of the world’s most famous composers and musicians. Probably the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that began to diminish while he was in his late 20s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was probably the conduit for extending his musical career. Through the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly completely deaf. Amazingly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most popular pieces.