For individuals who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” may take on a completely new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial effect on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers observed, putting 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. knowing that the children with implants had difficulty 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.
For children in the singing group, a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is just the latest in a long line of research endeavors that illustrate the merits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and indicated that musical training can enhance 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.
The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a significant difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any level of background noise was incorporated, the musicians substantially outperformed the non-musicians. 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 located inside of the brains of the musicians.
But the benefits of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s study don’t just end there. According to the study’s findings, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, refining 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. Musical training has a powerful impact and this again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was likely the gateway for extending his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life almost totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned works.