The saying “Music to my ears” could soon have an entirely different meaning to people dealing with hearing impairment.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London assessed the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study highlighted the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers observed, 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. The researchers already knew that children with implants had a difficult time understanding speech so they introduced control and test sets which delegated participants to singing and non-singing groups.
The study showed a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research demonstrating the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this study is just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these findings 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, challenging each to identify speech syllables through a variety of background noise levels.
The ages of the participants in the study by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise ratios. 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 within the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. The auditory motor network is fine-tuned 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 effect and this once again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that began to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
Though Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be considered extreme by present standards, the groundwork of the training may have been the gateway to extending his career as a composer. In fact, Beethoven actually lived the last 10 years of his life nearly totally deaf. Despite that, many of his most cherished works came during his last 15 years.