The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning to people who have hearing loss.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London evaluated the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the results of the study highlighted the effect 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 measured speech-in-noise performance. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. knowing that the children with implants had difficulty understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers created control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
For children in the singing group, a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This research is only the latest in a long line of research initiatives that demonstrate the advantages of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these findings and indicated that musical training can enhance speech perception in noisy environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the objective of this study which used 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
In contrast to the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a considerable difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had comparable 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 due to enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory parts located within the brains of the musicians.
But the benefits of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t just 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 research.
It’s important to note that while the musicians studied were adults, each of them began their musical education at a much younger age and accumulated at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful impact and this once again backs that fact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a challenge 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 started to decline while he was in his late 20s.
Though Beethoven’s young childhood musical training would be regarded as severe by today’s standards, the foundation of the training might have been the gateway to extending his career as a composer. Through the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost totally deaf. Incredibly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most popular pieces.