The saying “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning to people suffering from 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
Speech-in-noise performance was the key measure researchers observed, 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. Armed with the knowledge that the children with implants had difficulty understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers introduced control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The results showed an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research showing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is just one of them. In loud environments, speech perception can be enhanced by musical training, and these results were backed by research carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
That study analyzed the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through numerous background noise levels.
In contrast to the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed equally under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would distinguish 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 areas of the brain which most likely accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the advantages of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t simply end there. 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.
It’s worthwhile to note that while the musicians examined were adults, they all started their musical training at a much younger age and amassed at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a profound effect and this once again supports that fact.
The Impact 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.
Although Beethoven’s young childhood musical training would be regarded as extreme by present standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. Over the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost totally deaf. Despite that, many of his most cherished pieces were composed during his last 15 years.