The saying “Music to my ears” could soon have an entirely different meaning for people dealing with hearing loss.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial impact on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Measuring 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 observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. Armed with the knowledge that the children with implants had trouble understanding speech perception before the beginning of the study, researchers developed control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The study showed a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research revealing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this research is just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and suggested that musical training can improve speech perception in loud environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the objective of this study which examined 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
The ages of the participants in the study 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 significant 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 distinguish themselves as the study continued, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise ratios. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions 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 revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. 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.
These adult musicians in this study had all been educated when they were younger and had at least ten years of training. This again backs the recent analysis that musical training can have a powerful impact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most famous musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Probably the most well-known 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 likely the gateway for prolonging his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life almost totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned pieces.