The saying “Music to my ears” could soon have an entirely different meaning for people who have hearing impairment.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial effect on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study carried out by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the key measure researchers looked at, putting 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. knowing 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 kids in the singing group, an impressive 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 research is only the latest in a long line of research endeavors that show the merits of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and suggested that musical training can improve speech perception in noisy environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the objective of this study which examined 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
Unlike the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results among people who were trained musically and those who weren’t was considerable.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any amount of background noise was added, the musicians significantly outperformed the non-musicians. 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 regions found inside of the brains of the musicians.
But the benefits of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s study don’t simply end there. According to the study’s findings, 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 educated when they were younger and had at least ten years of training. Musical training has a powerful effect and this again supports that fact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most celebrated musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who began to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was most likely the gateway for prolonging his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually spent the last 10 years of his life nearly completely deaf. Incredibly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned pieces.