The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning for people suffering from hearing impairment.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London examined the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study highlighted the impact and benefit received by exposing people to music.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. knowing 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 advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this study is only one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these findings and suggested that musical training can enhance speech perception in loud environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the objective of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
Unlike the study 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 individuals who were musically trained and those who weren’t was substantial.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed equally under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study continued, 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 study don’t just end there. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, fine-tuning 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. This once again backs the recent assessment that musical training can have a powerful impact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
Though Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be regarded as 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 totally deaf. Incredibly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned works.