For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” may have a completely new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile impact on hearing as is illustrated by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. knowing that the children with implants had a hard time understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers developed control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The study showed a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This research is only the latest in a long line of research endeavors 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 improve speech perception in noisy 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.
In contrast to the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a significant difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was missing, both groups had similar results, but when any level of background noise was incorporated, the musicians significantly outperformed the non-musicians. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions of the brain which most likely 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. 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 important to note that while the musicians examined were adults, they all started their musical education at a much younger age and acquired at least ten years of musical training. Musical training has a powerful impact and this again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most well-known composers and musicians. Perhaps the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that began to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was probably the gateway for prolonging his musical career. During the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly totally deaf. Incredibly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned pieces.