The saying “Music to my ears” could soon have a very different meaning to people suffering from hearing impairment.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London analyzed the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the results of the study highlighted the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers looked at, enrolling 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 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.
For children in the singing group, a remarkable 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
There is a tremendous amount of research demonstrating the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this research is only one of them. In loud settings, speech perception can be enhanced by musical training, and these results were backed by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
In contrast to the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study evaluated young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a significant difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed similarly 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 rates. 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. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training reinforced 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 trained when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. Musical training has a profound impact and this once again backs that fact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most celebrated composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who began to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
Though Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be considered severe by today’s standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. In fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life nearly completely deaf. Despite that, many of his most cherished works were composed during his last 15 years.