The expression “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning for people dealing with hearing impairment.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London analyzed the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the results of the study illustrated the impact and benefit received by exposing people to music.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. Armed with the knowledge that the children with implants had difficulty 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 kids 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.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is just the most recent in a long line of research initiatives that demonstrate the advantages of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these results and indicated that musical training can enhance speech perception in loud environments.
That study examined the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through a number of background noise levels.
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 among those who were trained musically and those who weren’t was significant.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study continued, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory areas 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 identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. The auditory motor network is refined and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this research.
These adult musicians in this study had all been trained when they were younger and had at least ten years of training. Musical training has a powerful impact and this again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most famous musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Perhaps the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that started to decline while he was in his late 20s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was probably the conduit for extending his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually lived the last decade of his life almost completely deaf. In spite of that, many of his most cherished works were composed during his last 15 years.